Plant cells are, in some ways, more interesting than animal cells. This is mainly due to the variety of functions and organelles plant cells have to offer.
One of the organelles that function differently in plant cells is the cell vacuole. If you take diagrams of animal and plant cells side-by-side, you’ll find the vacuole is much bigger in plant cells.
Why’s that so? What does a vacuole do in a plant cell? Here, we’ll be answering all those questions. So, let’s jump right into it.
What is Vacuole
Vacuoles are organelles that float freely in the cytoplasm of cells. The permanent vacuoles contain cell sap and are bound by a membrane to keep the sap intact. In animal cells, vacuoles are very small and are usually used for storing materials temporarily.
On the other hand, they’re very large in plant cells. Most plant cells have a single vacuole. If they have more than one, only one vacuole is found large, and it’s called the central vacuole.
The membrane that surrounds the vacuole is called tonoplast, and it’s considered a component of the endomembrane system. Usually, there’s no large vacuole in a new cell.
As the cell matures, numerous small cell vacuoles merge to form the central vacuole. The smaller cell vacuoles usually emerge from the Golgi apparatus or endoplasmic reticulum.
What’s more interesting is that the items contained by the cell vacuole differ greatly from cell to cell. There might be water, chemicals, toxins, plant wastes, or even pigments. What the vacuole will contain depends greatly on its surrounding cytoplasm.
What Does it Do in a Plant Cell?
The functions of vacuoles in plant cells include providing rigidity to the cell, growth, disposal of waste, storage, protection, etc.
Experts theorize that vacuoles are specialized lysosomes because they handle waste products. In certain cases, water can also be a waste product. In these cases, the vacuole will absorb some water from the cell and maintain the pH of the cell.
Sometimes, vacuoles also absorb the toxins that float around the cells. In these cases, the toxins are first absorbed by the vacuole, and then they’re converted to compounds that can either be used or at least are safe for the cell.
Chlorophylls are mostly credited for giving flowers their colors. However, sometimes cell vacuoles also store colored pigments, and this allows them to give flowers colors as well.
One of the greatest structural functions of the cell vacuole is controlling the turgor pressure of the cell. The turgor pressure determines how rigid the cell will be. It’s essentially the difference between the pressure of osmosis outside and inside the cell.
When the cell contains adequate water, the vacuole swells up by collecting the liquid. This maintains the structure of the cell while preventing further water from rushing in.
In case of a water deficit, the vacuole shrinks. This reduces the turgor pressure and allows water to enter the cell.
Is Vacuole Present only in Plant Cell?
Cell vacuoles are found in both animal and plant cells. They are rarely found in human cells as well. However, vacuoles don’t play an as important role in animal cells as they do in plant cells.
So, it can be concluded that vacuoles are present in all sorts of cells. However, they aren’t as important for animal cells as they are for plant cells.
Is Vacuole Vital for a Plant Cell?
As we can see, vacuoles play a ton of important functions for plant cells. They’re sometimes responsible for giving flowers their colors. But it only starts there.
Without cell vacuoles, it would’ve been impossible to maintain osmotic pressure in cells. This would hamper the plant’s ability to intake nutrients and produce food.
Furthermore, cell vacuoles play important role in storage as well as waste management. Overall, they perform not one but multiple important functions in a plant cell.
So, it can be concluded that cell vacuoles are vital for a plant cell.
As you can see, cell vacuoles are interesting organelles that perform multiple vital functions.
So, we can say that a plant cell can’t function without a cell vacuole. However, animal cells can function without one.