Vacuoles: Definition, Structure, Functions, & Diagram

Vacuoles Definition

  • Vacuoles are membrane-bound organelles.
  • All plant, fungal, animal, and bacterial cells, as well as a certain protist, include vacuoles.
  • An enormous, liquid-filled vacuole is the most noticeable compartment in most plant cells. Three genera of filamentous sulfur bacteria, the Thioploca, Beggiatoa, and Thiomargarita, also include large vacuoles.
  • However, the role and relevance of vacuoles differ significantly depending on the kind of cell, with plants, fungi, and some protists having considerably more prominent vacuoles than mammals and bacteria do.
  • A single cell can contain several vacuoles. Every vacuole and the cytoplasm are separated by a single membrane called the tonoplast.
  • They often take up more than 30% of the volume of the cell. However, depending on the cell type, the volume taken up by the vacuole can range from 5% to 90%.
Animal cells + Plant Cells
Image Credit: https://researchtweet.com/

Structure of Vacuoles

  • They often don’t have a fixed size or form; instead, their structure changes according to the requirements of the individual cell.
  • The vacuoles in young, actively proliferating plant cells are relatively tiny.
  • These vacuoles first appear in newly dividing cells, most likely due to the gradual fusing of vesicles originating from the Golgi apparatus.
  • Tonoplast or vacuolar membrane encircles a vacuole, which is filled with cell sap.
Vacuoles Structure
Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  • The cytoplasmic membrane that surrounds a vacuole and divides its contents from the cell’s cytoplasm is known as a tonoplast. As a membrane, it primarily controls ion movements inside the cell and isolates substances that could be dangerous or a threat to the cell.
  • Vacuoles can include a variety of hydrolytic enzymes and are physically and functionally linked to lysosomes in animal cells. Additionally, they typically have sugars, salts, acids, and nitrogenous substances in their cell sap, including alkaloids and anthocyanin pigments.
  • The pH of plant vacuoles can range from 3 to 9, depending on the amount of accumulating acids or huge amounts of alkaline chemicals (e.g., citric, oxalic, and tartaric acids).

Types of Vacuoles

1. Sap Vacuoles

  • It has a variety of transport methods for the movement of various chemicals.
  • Animal and young plant cells both contain a number of small vacuoles containing sap. In mature plant cells, the small vacuoles merge to form a single large central vacuole that can occupy up to 90 percent of the cell’s volume.
  • The thick peripheral layer of cytoplasm is fanned out by the massive central vacuole.
  • The goal of this apparatus is to speed up the interaction between the cytoplasm and the environment. “A sap” or “vacuolar sap” are terms frequently used to describe the fluid found in sap vacuoles.

2. Contractile Vacuoles

  • They can be present in certain protistan and predominantly freshwater algal cells.
  • The membrane of a contractile vacuole is very extensible and collapsible. In addition, it is connected to several feeding canals (e.g., Paramecium). The cytoplasm surrounding the feeding canals offers either waste-free or waste-containing water.
  • The contractile vacuole receives the same amount.
  • The vacuole enlarges. The action is known as diastole. When it comes into contact with the plasma membrane, the inflated contractile vacuole collapses.
  • The term “collapsing” is systole. The contents of the vacuole are thrown outside as a result.
  • Contractile vacuoles are involved in excretion and osmoregulation.

You may also like to read: Gluconeogenesis

3. Dietary vacuoles

  • They can be found in the phagocytes of higher animals, as well as in the cells of lesser animals and protozoan protists.
  • A phagosome and a lysosome combine to generate a food vacuole. Digestive enzymes, which are necessary for the digestion of nutrients, are present in the food vacuole. The digested components exit the body and enter the cytoplasm around them.

4. Air Vacuoles (Pseudo-vacuoles, Gas vacuoles)

  • Only prokaryotes have been reported to contain them.
  • A single air vacuole does not exist, nor is it encircled by a single membrane. It is made up of several more compact, sub-microscopic vesicles. Each vesicle contains metabolic gases and is enclosed by a protein membrane.
  • In addition to storing gases, air vacuoles give off buoyancy, mechanical strength, and radiation shielding.

Vacuoles Functions

  • A plant vacuole serves a number of purposes. In the same cell, many vacuoles with various roles are frequently seen.
  • Various sorts of compounds can be stored in plant vacuoles. It has the capacity to store nutrients as well as waste materials.
  • Vacuolar products that are preserved occasionally have a metabolic purpose. Succulent plants, for instance, open their stomata during the night (when transpiration losses are smaller than during the day) and collect carbon dioxide, transforming it to malic acid. This acid is maintained in vacuoles overnight so that it may be converted to sugar the next day while the stomata are kept closed.
  • For instance, if chemicals that might damage the plant cell are present in large quantities in the cytoplasm, they can sequester such molecules.
  • In plant cells that are exposed to a wide range of environmental fluctuations, the vacuole plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis. For instance, greater transport of H+ into the vacuole buffers the flow of H+ into the cytoplasm as the environment’s pH falls.
  • Numerous plant cells regulate the somatic pressure of the cytoplasm and vacuole through the regulated degradation and synthesis of polymers, such as polyphosphate, in the vacuole and other methods. This permits them to keep a phenomenal amount of continuous turgor pressure despite substantial fluctuations in the tonicity of the fluids in their immediate surroundings.
  • Vacuoles expand, allowing the germinating plant or its organs (such as leaves) to develop swiftly while using water primarily.
  • Protein bodies, which are remodeled vacuoles, are where the stored proteins in seeds that are required for germination are housed.

In Other Cells

  • In fungal cells: They have several roles in the homeostasis of the pH and ion concentration of fungal cells, as well as in osmoregulation, the storage of amino acids and polyphosphate, and degradative activities.
  • In Animal cells vacuoles: generally, play supporting roles in the broader exocytosis and endocytosis processes.


Spread the love

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *