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noun, plural: lysosomes

Organelles containing a large range of digestive enzymes used primarily for digestion and removal of excess or worn-out organelles, food particles, and engulfed viruses or bacteria.


Their specific functions include digestion of macromolecules from phagocytosis, endocytosis, and autophagy, digestion of bacteria and other waste materials, repair of damage to the plasma membrane by acting as a membrane patch, and apoptosis (e.g. digesting web from the fingers of a 3- to 6-month-old fetus). Often, they are referred to as “suicide-bags” because of their role in autolysis.

Lysosomes were discovered by the Belgian cytologist Christian de Duve in 1949.

Word origin: from the Greek words lysis, which means dissolution or destruction, and soma, which means body.

Related forms: lysosomal (adjective).
Related terms: GERL.

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