By Zach Jones


Vacuoles are storage bubbles found in cells. They are found in both animal and plant cells but are much larger in plant cells. Vacuoles might store food or any variety of nutrients a cell might need to survive. They can even store waste products so the rest of the cell is protected from contamination. Eventually, those waste products would be sent out of the cell. The structure of vacuoles is fairly simple. There is a membrane that surrounds a mass of fluid. In that fluid are nutrients or waste products. Plants may also use vacuoles to store water. Those tiny water bags help to support the plant. They are closely related to objects called vesicles that are found throughout the cell. In plant cells, the vacuoles are much larger than in animal cells. When a plant cell has stopped growing, there is usually one very large vacuole. Sometimes that vacuole can take up more than half of the cell's volume. The vacuole holds large amounts of water or food. Don't forge that vacuoles can also hold the plant waste products. Those waste products are slowly broken into small pieces that cannot hurt the cell. Vacuoles hold onto things that the cell might need, just like a backpack.

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Cells need to make proteins. Enzymes made of proteins are used to help speed up biological processes. Other proteins support cell functions and are found embedded in membranes. Proteins even make up most of your hair. When a cell needs to make proteins, it looks for ribosomes. Ribosomes are the protein builders or the protein synthesizers of the cell. They are like construction guys who connect one amino acid at a time and build long chains. Ribosomes are special because they are found in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. While a structure such as a nucleus is only found in eukaryotes, every cell needs ribosomes to manufacture proteins. Since there are no membrane-bound organelles in prokaryotes, the ribosomes float free in the cytosol. Ribosomes are found in many places around a eukaryotic cell. You might find them floating in the cytosol. Those floating ribosomes make proteins that will be used inside of the cell. Other ribosomes are found on the endoplasmic reticulum. Endoplasmic reticulum with attached ribosomes is called rough ER. It looks bumpy under a microscope. The attached ribosomes make proteins that will be used inside the cell and proteins made for export out of the cell. There are also ribosomes attached to the nuclear envelope. Those ribosomes synthesize proteins that are released into the perinuclear space.
Ribosome in action

Endoplasmic Reticulum

Another organelle in the cell is the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). While the function of the nucleus is to act as the cell brain, the ER functions as a manufacturing and packaging system. It works closely with the Golgi aparatus, ribosomes, mRNA, and tRNA. Structurally, the endoplasmic reticulum is a network of membranes found throughout the cell and connected to the nucleus. The membranes are slightly different from cell to cell and a cell’s function determines the size and structure of the ER. For example, some cells, such as prokaryotes or red blood cells, do not have an ER of any kind. Cells that synthesize and release a lot of proteins would need a large amount of ER. You might look at a cell from the pancreas or liver for good examples of cells with large ER structures. Smooth ER (SER) acts as a storage organelle. It is important in the creation and storage of lipids and steroids. Steroids are a type of ringed organic molecule used for many purposes in an organism. They are not always about building the muscle mass of a weight lifter. Cells in your body that release oils also have more SER than most cells.
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