What organelles contain digestive enzymes?


Quick Answer

The organelles that contain digestive enzymes are called lysosomes. These cellular structures primarily function for the breakdown of complex molecular substances, such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids.

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Full Answer

The cells of eukaryotic organisms are compartmentalized into functional units called organelles, which perform highly specialized tasks in the cell. The majority of organelles are membrane bound or surrounded by a plasma membrane. Although similar in shape and organization to a cell's plasma membrane, the composition of an organelle's membrane has a different constitution of proteins and phospholipids. Some organelles, such as the Golgi apparatus and the nucleus, exist as individual units, while others, including the chloroplasts, mitochondria and lysosomes, are present in large quantities.

Lysosomes are microscopic, sac-like structures suspended in the cytosol of the cell's plasma membrane. The digestive enzymes contained within these organelles are called acid hydrolases. Aside from the breakdown of food particles, the enzymes also digest damaged membranes, aiding in recycling wornout parts of the cell. Another important function of the lysosomes is the prevention of microorganisms from invading the cell. Harmful bacteria and viruses are usually targeted and digested by lysosomes found in white blood cells. Due to their digestive properties, acid hydrolases are isolated from the rest of the cell by the membrane that envelopes the lysosomes. Otherwise, the enzymes will digest all cellular components.

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