When we eat food, we rely on our digestive system to break everything down so that our bodies can use the nutrients. Lysosomes are often called the digestive system for cells.

Lysosomes will break down the complex nutrients inside the cell so that they can be used for energy. Lysosomes are important so that the cell has food and maintains good health.

Lysosomes are organelles and are found in almost all animal cells. They are round and very small and are considered to be a type of vesicle. Each lysosome contains special enzymes inside that are designed to create nutrients by breaking down complex proteins.

The enzymes are a key feature for lysosomes and they begin in the endoplasmic reticulum where the golgi apparatus prepares them by turning them into a kind of vesicle and then ships them over to the cell.

How lysosomes work

Once any kind of food enters the cell, the lysosomes kick into gear and begin to digest the nutrients. This is the same thing that happens in our stomachs.

Lysosomes have a lot of enzymes that are designed to break down molecules such as proteins and sugars. Once they are broken down, these molecules are sent over to be turned into energy by the mitochondria.

As with any living thing, there are cell parts that will eventually age and die as part of the natural condition. Lysosomes will take all of the dead parts and break them down as well as pass over for digestion.

In this way there is no waste and the cell can reuse materials to create new ones. This is the most efficient way for a cell to use all resources. In the world of the cell, nothng can go to waste that offers a good source of energy. Many of us do this same practice when we mow our lawns.

Instead of getting rid of the cut grass we leave it on the lawn as mulch that will degrade and let those vitamins and nutrients be used for new grass.

One of the odd jobs of lysosomes is in doing a rather strange maintenance process. If a cell finds itself in the situation where there is little or no food, it will be required to eat some of its own organelles as part of a survival tactic. When this happens, instructions are sent out by the nucleus to lysosomes to start digesting cell parts.

Another curious thing to note is that since the sole job of the lysosome is to digest or break down, the only thing that keeps the lysosomes from digesting everything around it, including itself, is a protective membrane.

What do lysosomes look like?

Although they vary in shape and size, lysosomes have quite a few features in common. Their interior acidity has a pH level of 5, they have a high quantity of enzymes designed for digestion, and they have a single membrane that surrounds them.

Lysosomes have the ability to digest larger and smaller food content.

Fun Lysosome Facts

  • Lysosomes make use of a hydrolytic enzyme to break down food. This is a specialized enzyme that requires water to break food down into even smaller biomolecules.
  • Lysosomes are called the “stomach of the cells.”
  • If the pH value of the lysosomes changes from the required 4.5 to 5.0, the lysosomes will stop functioning.
  • Besides digestion, lysosomes also have other jobs including cell signaling, secretion, plasma membrane repair, and metabolizing energy
  • Lysosome takes in the food in the cell in 2 ways: one is referred to as “cell drinking” and the other is called “cell eating.”
  • Lysosomes have about 50 or more enzymes.

Interesting Facts about Biology

  • Enzymes that break down materials are often used in products that we use such as detergents, paper manufacturing, and food processing.
  • Amylase is an enzyme that’s in your saliva. It helps to break down the starches in the food that you eat.
  • In one gram of soil you can find around 40 million bacteria.
  • Bacteria are hardy creatures and some of the oldest living on earth. They can survive in conditions that would kill anything else including in radioactive waste, the frozen arctic, and deep inside the crust of the earth.
  • The size of the average human’s tongue is around 4 inches. Compare that to a giraffe’s tongue that is around 19 inches long.
  • Certain types of bacteria have developed the ability to create a type of light. This is called bioluminescence.

Lysosomes Quiz

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