We know that all animal cells have an organelle called the vacuole. They handle the waste products generated by the cell. However, do plant cells too have vacuoles, and are the functions of a plant vacuole the same as that of the animal vacuole?
Do plant cells have vacuoles?
Yes, plant cells do have vacuoles. The vacuole in the plant cell is a very important organelle. It handles the waste products of the cell and also maintains the cell’s water balance.
So, let us explore more about vacuoles in plant cells.
Vacuoles are essentially membrane bound organelles that are found both in plant and animal cells. It is located within the cytoplasm of the cell. In plant cells, the size of the vacuole is larger than animal cells. The larger vacuole slowly develops by the assimilation of larger vacuoles as the plant cells grow older. The vacuole contains the wastes of the plant cell and is the reason why some plants taste bitter as they grow older.
Structure of Vacuoles
The vacuole is structured like a spherical sac that is bound by a membrane. While there may be more than one vacuole in the plant cell, the vacuoles integrate to form a larger central vacuole as the plant cell gets older.
The membrane of the vacuole is selectively permeable and allows only certain kinds of molecules to pass through it. In a plant cell, the central vacuole can sometimes account for up to 90% of the cell’s volume. It is because most of the cell’s waste products and water are stored within it.
Function of Vacuoles
While the primary function of the vacuole in a plant cell is to store the waste products of the cell, it also has several other ancillary functions.
It also stores several other important salts, nutrients, proteins, and minerals that the plant cell requires in carrying out the essential life processes.
The vacuole of certain plants also contains the pigments that give the flowers their color. Developing seeds use the vacuole for protein storage.
Another important function of the plant vacuole is its ability to maintain the turgor pressure. Turgor pressure is essentially the water pressure and it helps maintain the upright structure of the plant.
The vacuole also breaks down the harmful waste product and stores it safely within itself. Since plants don’t have lysosomes, the vacuole plays an important role in ensuring the safety of the plant cells.
Plant Cell vs Animal Cell
The vacuole plays a more vital role in the plant cell than in animal cells. It is because animals have a specialized excretory system which is absent in plants.
So, the plant cell uses the vacuole to store the harmful wastes safely within the cell until the cell dies. Further, while the animal cells have lysosomes to break down the harmful wastes, the vacuole carries the same function in plant cells.
Thus, we can see that plant cells do have vacuoles. It plays an important role in keeping the cells clean and ensures that the plant cells stay alive.