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Lysosomes are the cell’s digestive system. They take complex nutrients from inside the cell and break them down to be used for energy. They play a vital role in maintaining the cell and keeping it healthy.

Cutaway illustration of an animal cell

Structure of human cells. Organelles. The core nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, ribosomes, mitochondria, centriole Vector illustration on a black background

Lysosomes work together with other organelles, such as the mitochondria, which converts the nutrients into energy


Lysosomes are small, round organelles found in the cytoplasm. They exist in almost every animal cell. They are really just a special form of vesicleWhat makes them so special are the enzymes inside them, which can break down complex proteins into nutrients for the cell. These enzymes start out in the endoplasmic reticulum. The Golgi apparatus packages them into vesicles and sends them into the cell. 

Function of Lysosomes

When food enters the cell, the lysosomes get to work. They digest the cell’s nutrients, just like the human stomach and small intestine. They contain various enzymes that break down complex molecules such as sugars and proteins. These molecules pass on to the mitochondria, which converts them into energy.

Anatomy of the Lysosome: Hydrolytic enzymes, Membrane and transport proteins. This organelle use the enzymes to break down and digest food particles, engulfed viruses or bacteria in the cell. Vector diagram for medical use

Proteins and digestive enzymes from the ER are wrapped within a membrane in the Golgi body


As parts of the cell age and die naturally, lysosomes will break them down and digest them for energy. This lets cells make use of leftover nutrients and reuse their old

materials for new parts. This is an example of the evolution of the biological system to use all of its resources efficiently. Cells cannot afford to waste any available energy.

As the cells digestive system, lysosomes are responsible for carrying out some strange but necessary maintenance. When food is scarce, the cell may need to consume some of its own organelles to survive. In this case, the nucleus will instruct the lysosomes to begin digesting parts of the cell. This is a clever way for the cell to survive when it is low on energy.


Written by: Tenaer Yin