What are prokaryotes (“pro-carry-oats”)? They are a type of cell. The other type of cell is a eukaryote (“you-carry-oat”). The difference between the two is that the latter has a nucleus, in which the DNA sits, whereas prokaryotes have no nucleus and their DNA floats around freely. There are more differences, but this one is the most important.
Prokaryotes, like every other living thing, need to breathe to recharge and live. There are three ways they do this, depending on the type of prokaryotes. They can use only oxygen, use oxygen unless it’s not available, in which case they use anaerobic respiration, or they can use anaerobic respiration when the oxygen is toxic.
There are two types of prokaryotes: archaea (“are-kay-eye”) and bacteria. Archaea are thought to be the oldest thing on earth. Hence, “Archaic”, meaning old or ancient. Bacteria are the more familiar type of prokaryote. They have a cell wall of peptidoglycan, something we, humans, don’t have so when we take an antibiotic that destroys peptidoglycan, it doesn’t harm us but it destroys the bacteria. However, some bacteria, like gram-negative, are immune to this because their peptidoglycan is sandwiched in between two cell walls.
The harmful bacteria are called pathogens. There are no known archaea that are harmful. The pathogens bring diseases, infections, etc…. Many of them create toxins that harm us. We are all, I’m sure, familiar with bacteria.
However, not all bacteria are harmful. Many are actually helpful or simply neutral. We have over 150 different kinds living solely on our skin. These don’t help or harm us, but they do feed off our skin cells. This type of “relationship” is called commensalism. In our intestines we have over a thousand bacteria helping us. A study has shown that the more bacteria we have in our gut, the happier we are, which means we have better digestion processes. It is very interesting how your mood can affect your digestion and vis versa.
Prokaryotes are very complex and unique organisms. I find them and also eukaryotes super interesting to study.