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Last Updated : 12 Jan, 2024
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Vacuole is a cellular organelle that is found in plants, fungi, and some types of protists. In plant cells, it helps in maintaining turgor pressure, contributing to the plant’s structural support and rigidity. Vacuoles contain various substances like ions, water, and waste products. It also contributes to essential cellular functions like regulating cell volume, takes part in digestion, and helps in the breakdown of cellular components.

Definition of Vacuole

A vacuole is a membrane bound organelle composed of fluid filled space. It is responsible for storing various substances and maintaining cell structure.

What is Vacuole?

The term vacuole means “an empty space”. Vacuoles are enclosed space that contains water, inorganic and organic molecules, and enzymes in solution. In some cases, they may also contain engulfed solids. Vacuoles are found in almost all eukaryotic species, including animal and plant cells. They are formed from the fusion of multiple membrane vesicles.

Vacuoles have a distinct shape and size, which depends on the components that make up the vacuole. In plants, algae, and fungi, vacuoles protect the cell against self-toxicity. The other function of the vacuole includes controlling osmotic pressure, preserving ion concentration, storing amino acids, preserving cell homeostasis, and carrying out degradation processes. Animal vacuoles are known to carry out various functions such as cell protection, recycling, endocytosis and exocytosis, storage, and maintaining turgor pressure.

Diagram of the Vacuole

The diagram of the vacuole is shown below:


Vacuole Structure

The structure of a vacuole in a cell is described as follows:

  • The vacuole is enclosed by a membrane called the tonoplast. It is made up of phospholipids and proteins and separates the contents of the vacuole from the cytoplasm.
  • The different components like water, ions, pigments, sugars, toxins, and various dissolved substances present inside the vacuole are collectively referred to as cell sap. The sap helps in maintaining turgor pressure in plant cells and storing essential nutrients.
  • The composition of the cell sap within the vacuole differs from that of the surrounding cytoplasmic matrix.
  • Vacuoles can vary in size and shape for example in plant cells, a vacuole occupies most of the cell”s space, while animal cells have smaller and numerous vacuoles.

Vacuole Functions

Protozoa, plants, algae, and fungi all have a vacuole and perform different function in each of them. The different functions of a vacuole are as follows:


  • Within cell vacuoles stores a variety of substance, including salts, proteins, minerals, and pigments.
  • Protons also forms part of the cell sap within vacuoles, and contributes to the maintenance of an acidic cellular environment.
  • The vacuole help in stabilizing the acidic pH of the interior of the cell by allowing the movement of protons in and out of the vacuole.
  • This proton transport process generates a proton motive force, which increases the movement of nutrients across the vacuole membrane.
  • Vacuoles also act as storage sites for lipids.

Turgor or Hydrostatic Pressure

  • Vacuoles consists of watery fluid like composition which exerts pressure on the cell membrane.
  • The pressure is due to the force applied by the fluid against the cell membrane.
  • Turgor pressure is vital for maintaining the structural integrity of the cell, as it allows the cell to maintain its shape and withstand adverse environmental conditions.

Exocytosis and Endocytosis


  • Intracellular digestion depend on processes like endocytosis and exocytosis.
  • Endocytosis process involves the uptake of cells dietary substances, and after the process of digestion is complete, waste products are eliminated through exocytosis.
  • Animal vacuoles also take part in the absorption of dietary materials via endocytosis, and waste products are excreted once enzymes break them down.
  • Lysosomes, small vesicles attached to vacuoles, play a key role in producing digestive enzymes that facilitate nutrient absorption and store chemicals absorbed by the organism.
  • Vacuoles are thus recognized for their efficient waste management capabilities as part of intracellular digestion.


  • Vacuoles act as protective barriers for the cell, protecting it from various potential threats.
  • They play an important role in safeguarding the cell by isolating and, if necessary, eliminating harmful substances.
  • Vacuoles are also involved in the cell’s defense against invading microorganisms, with the assistance of lysosomes, which combat bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
  • Furthermore, vacuoles help maintain the cell’s internal pH at an acidic level, preventing undesirable changes that could lead to cell contraction or rupture.


  • Vacuoles help in the recycling of broken-down proteins. The degraded proteins are both recycled and eliminated by the vacuole.
  • The recycling contributes to the strengthening of the cell and is particularly significant in plant cells.
  • Vacuoles are recognized for their vital role in maintaining an equilibrium between the production and removal of essential cellular components.

FAQs on Vacuoles

1. What is the Main Function of Vacuoles?


The primary function of vacuoles is to store various substances, including water, ions, sugars, pigments, toxins, and waste products.

2. What are Vacuoles Made of?


Vacuoles consist of a membrane (tonoplast) made of lipids and proteins, surrounding a fluid called cell sap, which contains water, ions, sugars, pigments, and other dissolved substances.

3. What is the Role of Vacuoles in Intracellular Digestion?


Vacuoles are involved in intracellular digestion by absorbing dietary substances through endocytosis and excreting waste through exocytosis. Lysosomes attached to vacuoles contain digestive enzymes.

4. Where is the Vacuole Found?


Vacuoles are found in the center of a cell. They vary in size and shape depending on the type of cell. Plant cell vacuoles are very large in size and store large amounts of water. Vacuole also helps the plant maintain its firm shape.

5. 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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