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    Biology 101 Update: A Cell’s Lysosomes Are More Than Garbage Disposals

    Scientific American is the essential guide to the most awe-inspiring advances in science and technology, explaining how they change our understanding of the world and shape our lives.


    It’s Your Lucky Day BIOLOGY

    Biology 101 Update: A Cell’s Lysosomes Are More Than Garbage Disposals

    Mounting evidence suggests they are control centers for a cell’s growth and survival

    By Monique Brouillette on December 1, 2016

    TEM views of various vesicular compartments. Lysosomes are denoted by "Ly." Credit: The Biological bulletin Flickr


    The lysosome was once thought of as the trash can of the cell, a dead-end destination where cellular debris was sent for disposal. But a growing body of research shows that this enzyme-filled vesicle is more active than it originally appeared to be—with some scientists now calling it a control center for cellular metabolism, the set of chemical reactions within a cell that keep it alive and well. Discoveries over the past decade “have elevated the lysosome to a decision-making center involved in the control of cellular growth and survival,” according to Roberto Zoncu, a cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. His review of the organelle's changing reputation was published in September's .

    As most high schoolers learn, the lysosome carries out waste disposal and recycling. In a process known as autophagy (meaning “self-eating”), it takes in old cellular components and unneeded large molecules, such as proteins, nucleic acids and sugars, and digests them with the help of enzymes and acids. The cell can then use these broken-down pieces as fuel or as building blocks for new molecules. Understanding this process is so important that Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in October for his autophagy work in the 1990s. Yet that's not all the organelle can do, it seems.

    For instance, one developing line of research indicates that the lysosome can sense how well nourished a cell (and thus an organism) is. When an organism is fasting or starving, the organelle prompts the cell to create more lysosomes containing enzymes that can digest fat reserves—a source of energy. Conversely, when the organism is well fed, lysosomes send out a message to the cell that resources are available to spend on growth or reproduction. Essentially the lysosome acts as a master switch in the cell to toggle between breaking things down or building them up, says Andrea Ballabio, a geneticist at the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine in Italy who studies the lysosome's role in health. Because of the organelle's ability to control fat metabolism, University of Virginia biologist Eyleen O'Rourke predicts that lysosomes could someday serve as therapeutic targets for metabolic diseases such as obesity.

    The reigning image of the lysosome is changing outside of metabolism as well. It also seems to be involved in life span and longevity; studies have shown that when lysosomes do not function properly, an organism does not live as long—perhaps because cellular debris and other waste build up. Some scientists are also starting to think that lysosomes may be culprits in neurodegenerative illnesses, following studies from researchers at New York University who have shown that a defect in a lysosomal gene accelerates Alzheimer's disease. What all this research makes clear is that lysosomes should no longer be considered a dead end. Instead they might just be the way forward for a new generation of lifesaving drugs.

    This article was originally published with the title "Organelle Overhaul" in Scientific American 315, 6, 18 (December 2016)



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    Source : www.scientificamerican.com

    Cellular organelles and structure (article)

    Eukaryotic cells

    Cellular organelles and structure

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    What is a cell

    Right now your body is doing a million things at once. It’s sending electrical impulses, pumping blood, filtering urine, digesting food, making protein, storing fat, and that’s just the stuff you’re not thinking about! You can do all this because you are made of cells — tiny units of life that are like specialized factories, full of machinery designed to accomplish the business of life. Cells make up every living thing, from blue whales to the archaebacteria that live inside volcanos. Just like the organisms they make up, cells can come in all shapes and sizes. Nerve cells in giant squids can reach up to 12m [39 ft] in length, while human eggs (the largest human cells) are about 0.1mm across. Plant cells have protective walls made of cellulose (which also makes up the strings in celery that make it so hard to eat) while fungal cell walls are made from the same stuff as lobster shells. However, despite this vast range in size, shape, and function, all these little factories have the same basic machinery.

    There are two main types of cells, prokaryotic and eukaryotic. Prokaryotes are cells that do not have membrane bound nuclei, whereas eukaryotes do. The rest of our discussion will strictly be on eukaryotes. Think about what a factory needs in order to function effectively. At its most basic, a factory needs a building, a product, and a way to make that product. All cells have membranes (the building), DNA (the various blueprints), and ribosomes (the production line), and so are able to make proteins (the product - let’s say we’re making toys). This article will focus on eukaryotes, since they are the cell type that contains organelles.

    A diagram representing the cell as a factory. The cell membrane is represented as the "factory walls." The nucleus of a cell is represented as the "blueprint room." The ribosome is represented as the "production room" and the final protein made by the ribosome is represented as the "product."

    What’s found inside a cell

    An organelle (think of it as a cell’s internal organ) is a membrane bound structure found within a cell. Just like cells have membranes to hold everything in, these mini-organs are also bound in a double layer of phospholipids to insulate their little compartments within the larger cells. You can think of organelles as smaller rooms within the factory, with specialized conditions to help these rooms carry out their specific task (like a break room stocked with goodies or a research room with cool gadgets and a special air filter). These organelles are found in the cytoplasm, a viscous liquid found within the cell membrane that houses the organelles and is the location of most of the action happening in a cell. Below is a table of the organelles found in the basic human cell, which we’ll be using as our template for this discussion.

    Organelle Function Factory part

    Nucleus DNA Storage Room where the blueprints are kept

    Mitochondrion Energy production Powerplant

    Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum (SER) Lipid production; Detoxification Accessory production - makes decorations for the toy, etc.

    Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum (RER) Protein production; in particular for export out of the cell Primary production line - makes the toys

    Golgi apparatus Protein modification and export Shipping department

    Peroxisome Lipid Destruction; contains oxidative enzymes Security and waste removal

    Lysosome Protein destruction Recycling and security

    Diagram of a cell highlighting the membrane bound organelles mentioned in the table above.


    Our DNA has the blueprints for every protein in our body, all packaged into a neat double helix. The processes to transform DNA into proteins are known as transcription and translation, and happen in different compartments within the cell. The first step, transcription, happens in the nucleus, which holds our DNA. A membrane called the nuclear envelope surrounds the nucleus, and its job is to create a room within the cell to both protect the genetic information and to house all the molecules that are involved in processing and protecting that info. This membrane is actually a set of two lipid bilayers, so there are four sheets of lipids separating the inside of the nucleus from the cytoplasm. The space between the two bilayers is known as the perinuclear space.

    Though part of the function of the nucleus is to separate the DNA from the rest of the cell, molecules must still be able to move in and out (e.g., RNA). Proteins channels known as nuclear pores form holes in the nuclear envelope. The nucleus itself is filled with liquid (called nucleoplasm) and is similar in structure and function to cytoplasm. It is here within the nucleoplasm where chromosomes (tightly packed strands of DNA containing all our blueprints) are found.

    Cartoon showing a close up the nucleus and highlighting structures specific to the nucleus.

    A nucleus has interesting implications for how a cell responds to its environment. Thanks to the added protection of the nuclear envelope, the DNA is a little bit more secure from enzymes, pathogens, and potentially harmful products of fat and protein metabolism. Since this is the only permanent copy of the instructions the cell has, it is very important to keep the DNA in good condition. If the DNA was not sequestered away, it would be vulnerable to damage by the aforementioned dangers, which would then lead to defective protein production. Imagine a giant hole or coffee stain in the blueprint for your toy - all of a sudden you don’t have either enough or the right information to make a critical piece of the toy.

    Source : www.khanacademy.org

    Cell organelles that are involved in the waste disposal system of the cell are

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    Cell organelles that are involved in the waste disposal system of the cell are


    Golgi apparatus







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    Correct option is B)

    Lysosomes are rich in a variety of hydrolytic enzymes or acid hydrolases such as nucleases, proteases, lipases, phosphatases, etc. These membranous structures are responsible for the degradation of the cellular debris like proteins, mRNA and other molecules. These are commonly known as the waste disposal system of the cell which degrades and then removes all the wastes from the cell.

    Thus, the correct answer is option B.

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