What is the Difference Between Nucleus and Mitochondria

Cells are the basic structural and functional unit of life. Cells consist of cell organelles that are involved in various functions required for the survival of the cells, hence the continuity of life. Nucleus and mitochondria are two such major organelles found in the cells.

What is the difference between nucleus and mitochondria? Nucleus takes control of the activities of the cell whereas mitochondria produce energy through cellular respiration.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Nucleus  
      – Definition, Features 
2. What are Mitochondria
      – Definition, Features 
3. Similarities Between Nucleus and Mitochondria
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Nucleus and Mitochondria
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Nucleus and Mitochondria
      – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Nucleus, Mitochondria, Cell

Difference  Between Nucleus and Mitochondria - Comparison Summary

What is Nucleus

The nucleus is an organelle present inside eukaryotic cells that control cellular activities. Two membranes cover it, called the nuclear envelopes. This double membrane separates the content inside the nucleus from the cytoplasm. The nuclear envelope also contains pores, called nuclear pores, that facilitate the exchange of materials in and out of the cells.

In the middle of the nucleus lies the nucleolus. It aids in the assembly of ribosomes. Within the nucleolus, ribosomal RNA (rRNA) combines with proteins to form ribosomal subunits, essential for protein synthesis.


Additionally, the nucleus contains genetic material in the form of chromosomes, which are the DNA strands tightly wound around histone proteins. These chromosomes contain instructions needed for the functioning of the cellular activities and information regarding heredity. Through the expression of genes, DNA directs protein synthesis and regulates cellular processes. It also regulates the transcription of DNA into messenger RNA (mRNA), which serves as a template for protein synthesis. This process occurs in the nucleus before mRNA is transported to the cytoplasm for translation.

Other functions of the nucleus include cell division, DNA repair, and DNA replication. During mitosis and meiosis, the nucleus undergoes a series of events to ensure that the genetic material among the daughter cells.

What are Mitochondria

Mitochondria is a cell organelle present in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells. It has two membranes: the outer membrane and the inner membrane. The inner membrane folds into structures called cristae. Cristae provides a higher surface area for the chemical reactions involved in ATP synthesis. Furthermore, the inside space of the mitochondria is the mitochondrial matrix. It contains enzymes necessary for the citric acid cycle and fatty acid metabolism.


Mitochondria contain their own  DNA, which is separated from the DNA of the nucleus. This has led to the endosymbiotic theory, which suggests that mitochondria evolved from symbiotic bacteria that were engulfed by ancestral eukaryotic cells. This theory is also supported by the fact that mitochondria replicate independently of the cell through a process similar to bacterial binary fission and possess their own ribosomes for protein synthesis.

Other than energy production, mitochondria help in apoptosis (programmed cell death), calcium signaling, and the synthesis of certain metabolites. Mitochondrial dysfunctions result in various human diseases, including metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging.

Similarities Between Nucleus and Mitochondria

  1. Nucleus and mitochondria are cell organelles.
  2. They both have their own DNA.
  3. Both are double membrane-bound.

Definition Between Nucleus and Mitochondria


  • The nucleus is an organelle present inside eukaryotic cells and controls cellular activities, while mitochondria is a cell organelle found in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells.


  • The nucleus is primarily responsible for storing and transmitting genetic information, while mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell, produce energy through cellular respiration.


  • The nucleus has an oval shape, whereas the mitochondria have a rod shape.


  • The nucleus contains DNA, whereas mitochondria contains its own mitochondrial DNA.

Inner Membrane

  • The inner membrane of mitochondria is folded into cristae, whereas the inner membrane of the nucleus is not folded into cristae.


  • The nucleus replicates its DNA through a process called mitosis, while mitochondria replicate their DNA independently of the cell’s cycle through a process called binary fission, similar to bacteria.


  • Nuclear DNA is inherited from both parents, following Mendelian genetics. Mitochondrial DNA is typically inherited only from the mother due to the maternal inheritance pattern, as the mitochondria in the sperm are usually destroyed during fertilization.


  • The mitochondrial genome is circular, whereas the nuclear genome is linear.


The nucleus and mitochondria are the two main organelles present in eukaryotic cells. The nucleus primarily controls cellular activities, while mitochondria mainly take part in energy production. This is the main difference between nucleus and mitochondria. In conclusion, both of these organelles play crucial roles in ensuring the proper functioning of cells.

FAQ: Nucleus and Mitochondria

1. What are the functions of the nucleus?

Functions of the nucleus include storing DNA, regulating gene expression, controlling cellular metabolism, replicating cells, and participating in cellular communication.

2. What are the functions of mitochondria?

The functions of mitochondria include the generation of energy(ATP production), regulation of metabolism, generation of heat, regulation of calcium levels, apoptosis regulation, and cell signalling.

3. Can a cell survive without mitochondria?

Mitochondria are considered the powerhouse of the cell as they produce ATP. A cell could die without mitochondria due to the low levels or absence of energy.

4. What is considered the main organelle in the cell?

The nucleus is considered the main organelle of the cells as it acts as the command center of the cell. It stores DNA which is involved in the control of cellular activities.


1. “Nucleus.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 
2. “Mitochondrion.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Diagram human cell nucleus” By Mariana Ruiz LadyofHats – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Mitochondrion mini” By Kelvinsong – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasa

Hasanthi is a seasoned content writer and editor with over 8 years of experience. Armed with a BA degree in English and a knack for digital marketing, she explores her passions for literature, history, culture, and food through her engaging and informative writing.

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