What Would Happen If a Cell’s Lysosomes Burst?

If a cell’s lysosomes burst, the enzymes released would severely damage various components of the cell, potentially killing it. Lysosomes are small, membrane-bound vesicles, or containers, which the cell fills with powerful digestive enzymes for use when needed to digest food items. When a cell is starving, lysosomes do attack other cell organelles to provide critical energy to the cell.

The enzymes in lysosomes are extremely powerful. They are used to break down everything from small fragments of organic compounds to entire ingested cells. They work by attaching to whatever they are intended to digest, then releasing their load of enzymes. In addition to digesting food items, they are used to break down worn cellular machinery to recycle their materials and make room for new structures.

The enzymes in lysosomes are proteins manufactured by ribosomes in the rough endoplasmic reticulum, an organelle in eukaryotic cells. Once the enzymes are created, they are quickly packaged in their own specialized membranes by the Golgi apparatus, another organelle. These membranes are specialized to be able to withstand the effects of the enzymes they contain. Lysosomes are involved in programmed cell death, as happens in multicellular organisms, breaking down their host cell quickly to make room for replacement cells.