Vacuole

Definition

noun, plural: vacuoles

(cell biology) A membrane-bound vesicle found in the cytoplasm of a cell whose function includes intracellular secretion, excretion, storage, and digestion


Supplement

A vacuole is a membrane-bound vesicle in the cytoplasm. Inside a vacuole is a solution of inorganic and organic molecules. There are also instances when the vacuole contains ingested solid matter. It is found in the cells of plants and fungi. It has also been found in certain cells of protests, animals, and bacteria.1, 2

The size and shape of vacuoles may vary. The vacuoles have varying functions as well. One of them is to serve as a compartment. A vacuole may contain water (especially in plant cells), waste products, and small molecules. It is an essential way to isolate materials that may be harmful to the cell. In plant cells wherein vacuoles are relatively large, the vacuole maintains an internal hydrostatic pressure inside the cell and thereby helps plants by providing support to plant structures such as leaves and flowers. The vacuole also serves as storage vesicle in seeds. It stores proteins essential for seed germination.


Word origin: Latin vacuolum, diminutive form of vacuum

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Reference(s):
1 Venes, D. (2001). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (20th Edition). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company. p. 228.
2 Schulz-Vogt, H. N. (2006). Vacuoles. Microbiology Monographs. 1.

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