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A vacuole is a membrane-bound cell organelle made up of an empty area that is filled with fluid and other components. Animal and plant cells both include vacuoles. Vacuoles do have a distinct shape, which depends on the components that make up the vacuole. Vacuoles are found in almost all eukaryotic species. Protozoa and other single-celled eukaryotes have cytoplasmic vacuoles. Protozoa utilize vacuoles for a variety of purposes, including food storage, digesting, excretion, and water expulsion. More than 80% of the volume of a plant cell is taken up by vacuoles, which are larger than those found in animal cells. Plants, algae, and fungi have powerful secondary metabolites like tannins and other biological colors that cover their vacuoles. In plants, algae, and fungus, vacuoles’ main job is to protect the cell against self-toxicity. Fungi contain vacuoles that carry out tasks such as controlling osmotic pressure, preserving ion concentration, storing amino acids, preserving cell homeostasis, and carrying out degradation processes. Animal and plant vacuoles have different diameters and are smaller. Animal vacuoles are known to carry out tasks such as cell protection, recycling, endocytosis and exocytosis, storage, and turgor pressure.

Vacuole Structure

The membrane lining the cell organelle and the cell sap make up the basic structure of the vacuole seen in every eukaryotic cell. A cell organelle known as a vacuole is found in the cytoplasmic matrix of a eukaryotic cell. The tonoplast, a thin membrane, holds it together. Phospholipids make up this membrane, which also contains proteins. Transporting different compounds through the tonoplast is carried out by the vacuole membrane proteins. The vacuole can preserve a variety of shapes thanks to diverse protein combinations. Vacuoles have some elements and a watery fluid inside of them. The term “cell sap” refers to the vacuoles’ entire contents. The cytoplast’s composition is different from that of the cell sap.

Vacuole Functions

Protozoa, plants, algae, and fungi all use vacuoles for a wide range of purposes. Animals’ vacuoles are only used for a few limited purposes. The following describes what a vacuole does in human cells.


Salts, proteins, minerals, and colors are kept in the cell’s vacuoles. Protons are another component of the cell sap in the vacuole, which aid in preserving the acidic environment inside the cell. The acidic pH of the cell plasma is stabilized by the passage of protons into and out of the vacuole. A proton motive force is produced when an acidic medium is established. The movement of nutrients both inside and outside the vacuole is further encouraged by this force. Lipids are another abundant substance kept in vacuoles.

Turgor or Hydrostatic Pressure

Watery fluid components make up vacuoles. The cell membrane is pressed against this fluid. Turgor pressure or hydrostatic pressure refers to the force the fluid is applying to the cell membrane. The cell’s ability to maintain its shape and resist harsh conditions depends on the turgor pressure.

Exocytosis and Endocytosis



Intracellular digestion involves the fundamental mechanisms of endocytosis and exocytosis. The process of endocytosis involves the cell absorbing the dietary substances. After the food has been digested, the cell excretes the waste through a process called endocytosis. Using endocytosis, the animal vacuole also absorbs the dietary substance. The waste products are exocytosed out of the vacuoles once they have been broken down in the presence of enzymes. Small vesicles called lysosomes are present and are affixed to the vacuole. Lysosomes’ main job is to produce digestive enzymes that allow cells to absorb nutrients. They also can accumulate chemicals that are taken in by the organism. Vacuoles are therefore known to have effective waste management techniques as well.


Vacuoles shield the cell against several dangers. The cell is protected from dangerous substances by a vacuole. Additionally, if dangerous compounds are present, it removes from the body. Vacuoles also assist the cell in fighting off microorganisms that enter it. Lysosomes assist vacuoles in defending the cell from bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. Vacuoles also keep the cell’s internal pH at an acidic level, preventing the cell from contracting or bursting.


Proteins, minerals, colors, and salts are also present in vacuoles, as was previously stated. The recycling of broken-down proteins is a key role of a vacuole. The degraded proteins are recycled and destroyed by vacuoles. The cell is further bolstered by recycled proteins. Most often, plant cells are seen to perform this activity. Thus, it is well known that vacuoles perfectly balance the creation and destruction of vital cellular components.

FAQs on Vacuoles

Question 1: What is the history of the vacuole?


Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek made the revelation of vacuoles in 1676. He is renowned as the Father of Microbiology, and his commitment to the extension of microscope lenses permitted him to be quick to observe live cells, and he created several cellular structures. This word permitted the plant cell to rapidly sort out its shape with cell sap structure from the cellular material (protoplasm) that was forgotten about. Spallanzani (1776) initially found contractile vacuoles (“stars”) in protozoa, yet confused them with respiratory organs. These stars were named vacuoles by Dujardin (1841). Schleiden involved the word for plant cells in 1842 to separate the structure containing cell sap from the rest of the cellular material. De Vries named the vacuole layer tonoplast in 1885.

Question 2: Are vacuoles present in human cells? What is the role of vacuoles in a human cell?


Yes, Vacuoles are found in certain human cells, but not all. It all boils down to need. Vacuoles help in exocytosis and endocytosis in some human cells. Vacuoles likewise help in protein secretion in specific cell types by collaborating with the Golgi Apparatus. They are also necessary for the immune system since they aid in the destruction of invading microorganisms.

Question 3: What are the functions of Vacuoles in a plant cell?


Plant cells’ vacuoles are bigger than those of animal cells. One of the most significant cell organelles is the central vacuole found in plant cells. The central vacuole, which is surrounded by a tonoplast, provides support to cells that make up leaves and other soft portions of plants. Water is known to be absorbed by the solutes found in vacuoles. As water enters the vacuoles, cells expand, allowing the soft sections of plants (such as leaves) to preserve their form and turgidity. Thus, the primary role of vacuoles is to keep the cell in an appropriate form.                                       

Question 4: What is the shape and size of a vacuole?


A vacuole has no distinct shape or size. It takes up a considerable portion of the volume of a plant cell, up to 80% (or at least 30% volume). When you look at a plant cell model, you’ll see a huge vacuole in the center, which is known as the central vacuole. The other cell organelles are pushed to the flanks as a result of their location. On the other hand, two or more tiny vacuoles (called vesicles) are dispersed around the animal cell’s perimeter.

Question 5: What are Gas Vacuoles that State their Functions?


Gas vesicles, otherwise called gas vacuoles, are miniature compartments tracked down in a few bacterial life forms that guide buoyancy. Gas vesicles are for the most part protein; no lipids or carbs have been found. Prokaryotic gas vacuoles are air-filled and formed like round and hollow compartments. They add to the buoyancy interaction. Numerous marine microorganisms, including cyanobacteria or blue-green growth, halophilic archaea, and green microbes, have gas vacuoles.

Question 6: How are vacuoles formed in a plant cell?


The fusing of several tiny vesicles in the plant results in the formation of vacuoles. It is held together by a membrane known as a tonoplast. For structural stability, the vesicles contain a substantial amount of water. They store proteins but not lipids in developing seeds. The vacuole also holds plant debris, which insects and mammals find bitter.

Question 7: What are the different types of vacuoles in the cell membrane?


They are classified into three groups depending on their contents and functionality.

  • Sap vacuoles
  • Food vacuoles
  • Contractile vacuoles

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Last Updated : 19 Oct, 2022
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