What’s the most important part of the cell?

The earliest cell is thought to have emerged at least 3.8 billion years ago at a time when the environment was anaerobic in nature (1-2). It is suggested that simple organic molecules formed and gave rise to a self-replicating RNA that found itself within a phospholipid membrane (2).   
The evolution of metabolism began with glycolysis (2), the sequence of reactions would produce life’s universal energy source: ATP (1-3). Photosynthesis and oxidative phosphorylation would come later (2). 
While cells may not need certain parts to remain living, all still depend on glycolysis to generate energy (2). The pathway is contained within the cytoplasmic matrix (1-2). Thus, I propose the cytoplasmic matrix is the most important part of the cell. 
References
1. Dennison KJ, Topping J, Caret RL. General, Organic, and Biochemistry. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
2. Cooper, G.M. “The Origin and Evolution of Cells.” The Cell: A Molecular Approach. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?rid=cooper.section.90.
3. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2009.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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