Difference Between Muscle Cells and Nerve Cells

Main Difference – Muscle Cells vs Nerve Cells

Muscle cells and nerve cells are two types of cells found in the animal body. Muscle cells and nerve cells differ in both structure and function. Muscle cells are the structural and functional unit of the muscle tissue while nerve cells are found in the nervous system. The main difference between muscle cells and nerve cells is that muscle cells are responsible for the contraction and relaxation of muscles whereas nerve cells are responsible for the coordination of the functions of the body through the transmission of nerve impulses between the body and the central nervous system. Muscle cells are involved in both voluntary and involuntary movements, depending on the nerve impulses they get through the nervous system.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Muscle Cells
     – Definition, Structure, Function
2. What are Nerve Cells
     – Definition, Structure, Function
3. What are the Similarities Between Muscle Cells and Nerve Cells
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Muscle Cells and Nerve Cells
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Cardiac Cells, Contraction, Motor Neurons, Muscle Cells, Myocytes, Nerve Cells, Sensory Neurons, Skeletal Muscle Cells, Smooth Muscle Cells

Difference Between Muscle Cells and Nerve Cells - Comparison Summary

What are Muscle Cells

Muscle cells, also known as myocytes, are a type of specialized cells found in the muscle. They can shorten their length using a series of motor proteins in the cell. Generally, muscle cells are composed of numerous mitochondria, fulfilling the high energy demand of the cells. The three types of muscle cells are smooth muscle cells, skeletal muscle cells, and cardiac muscle cells, as shown in figure 1.

Main Difference - Muscle Cells vs Nerve Cells

Figure 1: Muscle Cells

Smooth Muscle Cells

Smooth muscle cells are also known as visceral muscle cells, and they are found in the walls of the organs, blood vessels, and bronchioles. Generally, smooth muscle cells are non-striated, non-branched, single-nucleated, and involuntary-controlled.

Skeletal Muscle Cells

The widely distributed muscle cells in the body are skeletal muscle cells that form skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscle cells are striated, multinucleated, branched, and voluntary-controlled. Myofibrils of the skeletal muscle cells are responsible for the great strength of the skeletal muscles.

Cardiac Muscle Cells

Cardiac muscle cells can only found in the heart. They are single-nucleated, striated, branched, involuntary and intrinsically-controlled.

What are Nerve Cells

Nerve cells are granular cells specialized in serving as the functional unit of the nervous system, which transmits nerve impulses throughout the body. The nerve impulses are transmitted in the form of electrical and chemical signals through the neurons. Therefore, nerve cell or neuron is the structural and functional unit of the nervous system. A typical nerve cell consists of a cell body or soma, dendrites, and an axon. The cell body consists of a prominent nucleus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, and granules that contain neurotransmitters. The dendrites are tiny projections of the cell body. They pick signals from the other cells. The axon is a long, thin fiber extended from the cell body. The branches of the axon at its terminal are synaptic knobs. Most axons are wrapped with a fatty myelin sheath produced by Schwann cells. The small gaps within the myelin sheath are called the nodes of Ranvier. The structure of a typical nerve cell is shown in figure 2.

Difference Between Muscle Cells and Nerve Cells

Figure 2: Nerve Cell

The three types of nerve cells classified based on the function in the nervous system are sensory neurons, motor neurons, and mixed neurons. Sensory neurons transmit nerve impulses from the sensory receptors to the central nervous system. Motor neurons transmit nerve impulses from the central nervous system to the effector organ. Mixed neurons or interneurons connect sensory and motor neurons at the central nervous system.

Similarities Between Muscle Cells and Nerve Cells

  • Muscle cells and nerve cells are two types of specialized cells in the animal body.
  • Both muscle cells and nerve cells form tissues. 
  • Both muscle cells and nerve cells contain mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum.
  • Both muscle cells and nerve cells work together to coordinate the functions of the body.

Difference Between Muscle Cells and Nerve Cells

Definition

Muscle Cells: Muscle cells are the specialized cells found in the muscles, which can shorten their length.

Nerve Cells: Nerve cells are granular cells specialized in serving as the functional unit of the nervous system that transmits nerve impulses throughout the body.

Alternative Names

Muscle Cells: Muscle cells are also known as myocytes.

Nerve Cells: Nerve cells are also known as neurons.

Structure

Muscle Cells: Muscle cells can be multinucleated, striated, long, cylindrical cells. 

Nerve Cells: Nerve cells consist of a cell body, dendrites, and axons.

Form

Muscle Cells: Muscle cells form the muscular system.

Nerve Cells: Nerve cells form the nervous system.

Plasma Membrane

Muscle Cells: The plasma membrane of the muscle cells is called the sarcolemma.

Nerve Cells: The plasma membrane of the nerve cells is called the neurilemma.

Cytoplasm

Muscle Cells: The cytoplasm of the muscle cells is called the sarcoplasm.

Nerve Cells: The cytoplasm of the nerve cells is called the neuroplasm.

Role

Muscle Cells: Muscle cells are responsible for the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

Nerve Cells: Nerve cells are responsible for the coordination of the functions of the body.

Types

Muscle Cells: The three types of muscle cells are smooth muscles, cardiac muscles, and skeletal muscles.

Nerve Cells: The three types of nerve cells are sensory neurons, motor neurons, and mixed neurons.

Conclusion

Muscle cells and nerve cells are two types of specialized cells found in the animal body. Muscle cells form the muscular system while nerve cells form the nervous system. Muscle cells are responsible for the contraction and relaxation of various parts of the body. Nerve cells are involved in the coordination of the functions of the body by transmitting nerve impulses throughout the body. Therefore, the main difference between muscle cells and nerve cells is the function of each cell in the body.

Reference:

1. “Human Muscle Cell Types | Interactive Anatomy Guide.” Innerbody, Available here.
2. Nerve Cell, Hyper Physics, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Figure 33 02 12abc” By CNX OpenStax (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Blausen 0657 MultipolarNeuron” By BruceBlaus – Own work (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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