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Cell Structure

Lysosomes - Little Enzyme Packages

Simple Structure of a lysosome You will find organelles called lysosomes in nearly every animal-like eukaryotic cell. Lysosomes hold enzymes that were created by the cell. The purpose of the lysosome is to digest things. They might be used to digest food or break down the cell when it dies. What creates a lysosome? You'll have to visit the Golgi complex for that answer.

A lysosome is basically a specialized vesicle that holds a variety of enzymes. The enzyme proteins are first created in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. Those proteins are packaged in a vesicle and sent to the Golgi apparatus. The Golgi then does its final work to create the digestive enzymes and pinches off a small, very specific vesicle. That vesicle is a lysosome. From there the lysosomes float in the cytoplasm until they are needed. Lysosomes are single-membrane organelles.

Lysosome Action

Digestion by lysosomes
Since lysosomes are little digestion machines, they go to work when the cell absorbs or eats some food. Once the material is inside the cell, the lysosomes attach and release their enzymes. The enzymes break down complex molecules that can include complex sugars and proteins. But what if food is scarce and the cell is starving? The lysosomes go to work even if there is no food for the cell. When the signal is sent out, lysosomes will actually digest the cell organelles for nutrients.

Why Don't They Digest the Cell?

Here's something scientists are still trying to figure out. If the lysosome holds many types of enzymes, how can the lysosome survive? Lysosomes are designed to break down complex molecules and pieces of the cell. Why don't the enzymes break down the membrane that surrounds the lysosome?

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The Cell Secret Immune System (BBC Video)

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- Chem4Kids: Biochemistry
- Chem4Kids: Metabolism
- Chem4Kids: Proteins
- Chem4Kids: Enzymes
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