Ask Difference

Membranous Organelles vs. Nonmembranous Organelles — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on December 1, 2023
Membranous Organelles are enclosed by lipid bilayers; Nonmembranous Organelles are not
Membranous Organelles vs. Nonmembranous Organelles — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Membranous Organelles and Nonmembranous Organelles


Key Differences

Membranous Organelles are specialized structures within a cell that are surrounded by one or more lipid bilayers, providing them with a separate internal environment. Nonmembranous Organelles, in contrast, lack these enclosing membranes. This fundamental distinction between the two is essential for understanding their respective functions and roles within the cell.
Organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, mitochondria, and lysosomes are examples of Membranous Organelles. They play various roles, from energy production to protein synthesis and transport. The lipid bilayers enclosing these organelles allow for distinct internal conditions, enabling specific biochemical reactions to occur. In contrast, Nonmembranous Organelles, like ribosomes, centrioles, and cytoskeleton elements, operate more openly within the cell's cytoplasm.
Membranous Organelles often interact with other cellular components through vesicular transport, facilitated by their membrane structures. This allows for efficient transfer of materials within the cell. Nonmembranous Organelles, lacking a membrane barrier, usually interact directly with their cellular environment, facilitating functions like protein synthesis (ribosomes) or cell division (centrioles).
It's also worth noting the evolutionary perspectives. Mitochondria and chloroplasts, Membranous Organelles, are believed to have originated from symbiotic bacteria. Their membranes are remnants of this ancestral state. Nonmembranous Organelles, on the other hand, evolved as direct functional elements in eukaryotic cells without such external origins.
Lastly, while both types of organelles are crucial for the cell's function, their structural difference leads to varied susceptibilities. Membranous Organelles might be affected by factors disrupting lipid bilayers, while Nonmembranous Organelles can be sensitive to changes in the cytoplasmic environment.

Comparison Chart


Surrounded by lipid bilayers
Not enclosed by membranes


Mitochondria, Golgi apparatus
Ribosomes, centrioles


Vesicular transport within cell
Direct interaction with cytoplasm

Origins (Evolution)

Some believed to have symbiotic bacterial origins
Evolved as direct functional elements in cells


Factors disrupting lipid bilayers
Changes in the cytoplasmic environment

Compare with Definitions

Membranous Organelles

Membranous Organelles enable specific intracellular environments.
Mitochondria, as Membranous Organelles, maintain a unique pH for energy production.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Nonmembranous Organelles lack enclosing lipid bilayers.
Ribosomes, as Nonmembranous Organelles, float freely in the cytoplasm.

Membranous Organelles

Membranous Organelles often originate from vesicular transport.
Lysosomes, as Membranous Organelles, form from the Golgi apparatus.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Nonmembranous Organelles operate openly within the cell's cytoplasm.
Microvilli, as Nonmembranous Organelles, increase the cell's surface area.

Membranous Organelles

Membranous Organelles are pivotal for eukaryotic cell function.
Peroxisomes, as Membranous Organelles, detoxify harmful substances in the cell.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Nonmembranous Organelles are not derived from vesicular processes.
Spindle fibers, Nonmembranous Organelles, help in chromosome separation.

Membranous Organelles

Membranous Organelles are cellular structures with lipid bilayers.
The endoplasmic reticulum is a key Membranous Organelle involved in protein synthesis.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Nonmembranous Organelles directly interact with the cell's environment.
Cytoskeletal elements, key Nonmembranous Organelles, provide structural support.

Membranous Organelles

Membranous Organelles facilitate cellular compartmentalization.
The Golgi apparatus, a Membranous Organelle, sorts and packages proteins.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Nonmembranous Organelles are integral to cellular processes.
Centrioles, essential Nonmembranous Organelles, play a role in cell division.

Common Curiosities

How do Membranous Organelles maintain specific conditions?

Their lipid bilayers allow Membranous Organelles to maintain distinct internal environments.

Which organelle synthesizes proteins and is nonmembranous?

Ribosomes are Nonmembranous Organelles responsible for protein synthesis.

Give an example of a Membranous Organelle.

The mitochondria are a classic example of Membranous Organelles.

Which Nonmembranous Organelles aid in cell division?

Centrioles are Nonmembranous Organelles that play a role in cell division.

Do Nonmembranous Organelles have membranes?

No, Nonmembranous Organelles lack enclosing membranes.

What defines Membranous Organelles?

Membranous Organelles are enclosed by lipid bilayers.

Why do some Membranous Organelles have double membranes?

Some, like mitochondria, have double membranes due to evolutionary origins from engulfed bacteria.

Which organelle packages proteins, and is it membranous?

The Golgi apparatus packages proteins and is a Membranous Organelle.

Do Nonmembranous Organelles interact directly with the cytoplasm?

Yes, Nonmembranous Organelles directly interact with the cytoplasm.

Can Membranous Organelles be affected by lipid-disrupting agents?

Yes, since they have lipid bilayers, Membranous Organelles can be affected.

Are centrioles membranous or nonmembranous?

Centrioles are Nonmembranous Organelles.

Which organelle detoxifies substances and is it membranous?

Peroxisomes detoxify substances and are Membranous Organelles.

Do Nonmembranous Organelles have specific origins like some membranous ones?

No, Nonmembranous Organelles evolved as direct functional elements in eukaryotic cells.

Which Nonmembranous Organelles help maintain cell shape?

Cytoskeletal elements, which are Nonmembranous Organelles, provide structural support.

How do Membranous Organelles interact with other cellular components?

Membranous Organelles often use vesicular transport for interactions.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger

Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms