What is the matrix in the cell, and how does it connect cells together?

I read about this in my textbook. I know that a matrix is the material (or tissue) that connects other cells together. My book says:

In biology, matrix (plural: matrices) is the material (or tissue) in animal or plant cells, in which more specialized structures are embedded, and a specific part of the mitochondrion that is the site of oxidation of organic molecules.

This wording feels very complex, and I'm having trouble picturing what it's trying to describe.

  • $\begingroup$ Where is the quote from? $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Feb 24 '17 at 14:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Maybe the full sentence would help. Anyways, the quote seems to refer to organells and not to the extracellular matrix $\endgroup$ – Flo Feb 24 '17 at 14:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Maybe the OP is referring to the matrix of mitochondria $\endgroup$ – user237650 Feb 24 '17 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ The text passage you quote refers to the mitochondrial matrix (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_matrix). The thought you describe before is about the extracellular matrix (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extracellular_matrix). Besides being called "matrix" the two don't have much in common. Be aware that "matrix" also describes very different things, e.g. an embedding matrix used to prepare samples for SIMS (secondary ion mass spectrometry). $\endgroup$ – Armatus Feb 24 '17 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Cell matrix is the matrix of the cell $\endgroup$ – Anonymous Feb 9 at 5:40

The quote (which you more likely got from Wikipedia) discusses multiple types of matrices.

Let's break down the quoted definition:

The general definition of a matrix would be "an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure." In biology, we think of a matrix as a material, tissue or area in which more specialized structures (molecules, cells, organisms, etc.) are embedded.

  • In animals or plants, the matrix is often describing a material or tissue.

    • The nail matrix is the layer of cells that your fingernail or toenail sits on that actually produces the nail.

    • The extracellular matrix (or ECM) consists of a collection of extracellular molecules secreted by cells that provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding [more specialized] cells. One very familiar example of "matrix" tissue is connective tissue.


      • Here's a video from Khan Academy's Youtube channel to walk you through this a bit. And here's a more graphical walk-through explaining extra-cellular matrices.
    • The cytoplasmic matrix (aka cytosol) is the liquid found within cells in which organelles reside. It constitutes most of the intracellular fluid (ICF)


    • The mitochondrial matrix, a type of cytoplasmic matrix, is the fluid within the inner membrane of a cell's mitochondria that splits it into numerous compartments. This viscous "space" contains the mitochondria's DNA, ribosomes, soluble enzymes, small organic molecules, nucleotide cofactors, and inorganic ions; it is also the site in which oxidation of organic molecules occurs.


    So whats this look like under a microscope? Here's an image of a mitochondria and surrounding cellular cytosol under an electron microscope:


  • In ecology, a matrix is the general area in which your population, community, or habitat "patch" exists within. In other words, Matrix is the "background ecological system" of a landscape with a high degree of connectivity.


  • $\begingroup$ Is this how actually the matrix and cells look like when we put our skin on a microscope? $\endgroup$ – Okama Ksakas Feb 24 '17 at 16:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @OkamaKsakas I've added an image of these cellular matrices as seen under an electron microscope. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Feb 24 '17 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @OkamaKsakas If this answers your question, please accept my answer. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Feb 26 '17 at 20:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.