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What Is the Function of Lysosomes in Plant Cells?

Conflicting viewpoints exist among biologists on whether lysosomes occur only in animal cells or if lysosomes also exist in plant cells. Some textbooks say that plants lack lysosomes although modern biologists have found evidence of lysosomes in some, but not all, plants.


In animal cells, lysosomes are small cellular bodies that contain enzymes that help in the digestion of food molecules for use in cell metabolism. Biologists who argue plant cells have lysosomes believe they also house protein enzymes and fat lipids for use in plant cell metabolism.


What is more widely accepted is that plant cells contain lysosome-like vacuoles. Names for them include spherosomes or aleurones. In plants, large empty areas called vacuoles exist and various organic and inorganic compounds and liquids fill the vacuoles. Spherosomes and aleurones exist within the plant cell vacuole.

Expert Insight

Biology textbook authors Ken Miller and Joe Levine present the most compelling argument and statement regarding plants and lysosomes. Intensive investigation of plant vacuoles in the late 20th century did reveal that they contained enzymes found in animal lysosomes. Plant vacuoles fulfill the role of lysosomes in animal cells.

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