We have often heard that mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. We know that animal cells have mitochondria. Since there are similarities between the animal and plant cells, do plant cells too have mitochondria?
Do plant cells have mitochondria?
Yes, like animal cells, plant cells have mitochondria. For the plant too, it is the powerhouse of the cell. It plays a primary role in the breakdown of sugars and the creation of energy for the cell.
Let us explore more about the importance of mitochondria for the survival of plants.
Role of Mitochondria
The prime role of mitochondria is to break down the sugars synthesized by the plant through photosynthesis to provide the plant cell with the necessary energy.
The main function of mitochondria is to provide a steady supply of adenosine triphosphate or ATP, which is essentially the plant cell’s main energy-carrying molecule.
It also stores the energy produced in the ATPs and uses it to power the biochemical reactions that occur within the cell.
So, we can see that the primary purpose of mitochondria is to produce energy for the plant cells.
Another function of the mitochondria is to perform programmed cell death. It means that if a cell of the plant is acting abnormally, the mitochondrion kills the cell to prevent it from affecting other cells.
Structure of Mitochondria
The mitochondrion is made up of two membranes and a matrix. The outer membrane is smooth and permeable, which allows small molecules to pass through it in either direction. It is how the glucose molecules go into the mitochondria, and the ATP molecules move out to the rest of the cell.
The inner membrane is rough, less permeable, and folds over many times to increase the surface area inside the organelle. Since many chemical reactions occur within the inner membrane of the mitochondria, the increased surface area creates more space.
The matrix is the liquid that is present in the inner membrane. It consists of ribosomes and DNA. Also, there are structures called granules, which control the concentration of ions inside the mitochondria. It is the location where the main reactions and the breakdown of glucose happens.
Energy Production Process
The matrix is filled with water and proteins, which can take in organic molecules such as pyruvate and chemically digest them. The energy that is produced is harnessed in the ATPs, which then transfer to the rest of the cell. The process is called mitochondrial respiration, and it uses oxygen and the by-products formed are carbon dioxide and water. It is how the mitochondria produce energy.
Unlike animals, plants are autotrophs. It means they have to capture the sun’s energy. It is done by organelles called chloroplasts which trap the energy of the sun and break them down into sugar. The sugar is then further broken down into pyruvate and is processed by the mitochondria.
Thus, we can see that plant cells do have mitochondria, and like in animals, it plays the role of the ‘powerhouse of the cell.’