Plastids- Definition, Structure, Types, Functions and Diagram
Plastids are specialized organelles that are found in the cells of plants and some algae. They are involved in various functions such as photosynthesis, food storage, pigment synthesis, and cell differentiation. Plastids have a double membrane-bound structure and contain their own DNA and ribosomes.
The term "plastid" was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866, who derived it from the Greek word "plastos", meaning "formed" or "molded". He used it to describe the granules of starch and other substances that he observed in plant cells. However, he did not distinguish between different types of plastids or their origin.
The first clear definition of plastids was given by A. F. W. Schimper in 1883, who recognized them as independent units of the cell that can multiply by division and can differentiate into various forms. He also proposed that plastids originated from a common ancestor, the proplastid, which he considered to be a primitive form of cyanobacterium that was incorporated into a eukaryotic cell through endosymbiosis.
Schimper`s theory of plastid evolution was later supported by molecular and genetic evidence, which showed that plastids share a common origin with cyanobacteria and have retained some of their ancestral genes and metabolic pathways. Plastids are also closely related to mitochondria, another type of endosymbiotic organelle that originated from an ancient bacterium.
Plastids are highly diverse and dynamic organelles that can change their shape, size, number, and function depending on the developmental stage and environmental conditions of the cell. They can also interconvert between different types or revert back to their undifferentiated state. The main types of plastids are chloroplasts, chromoplasts, leucoplasts, and gerontoplasts, which will be discussed in the next section.
Plastids are classified into different types based on their morphology, function and pigmentation. The main types of plastids are:
Chloroplasts: These are the most common and well-known plastids that contain green pigment chlorophyll and are responsible for photosynthesis. Chloroplasts are found in the cells of green plants and algae. They have a complex structure consisting of an outer and an inner membrane, a fluid matrix called stroma, and a system of flattened membranous sacs called thylakoids. The thylakoids are arranged in stacks called grana and contain the photosynthetic units called photosystems. Chloroplasts also contain their own DNA, ribosomes and enzymes that are involved in various metabolic processes.
Chromoplasts: These are plastids that contain pigments other than chlorophyll, such as carotenoids, anthocyanins and flavonoids. Chromoplasts are responsible for the various colors of flowers, fruits, leaves and other plant organs. They are derived from chloroplasts or leucoplasts and play a role in attracting pollinators, seed dispersal and protection from herbivores. Chromoplasts have a variable structure depending on the type and amount of pigment they store. Some chromoplasts have thylakoids, while others have crystalline or globular inclusions of pigment.
Leucoplasts: These are colorless or white plastids that lack pigments and are mainly involved in storage and synthesis of organic molecules. Leucoplasts are found in the non-photosynthetic parts of the plant, such as roots, tubers, seeds and endosperm. They can be further subdivided into different types based on the type of molecule they store or synthesize. For example, amyloplasts store starch, elaioplasts store fats, proteinoplasts store proteins and tannosomes store tannins.
Gerontoplasts: These are plastids that are formed during the senescence or aging of plant cells. They are derived from chloroplasts or chromoplasts and undergo structural and functional changes as the cell dies. Gerontoplasts lose their pigments, thylakoids and photosynthetic activity and may degrade or recycle their components. Gerontoplasts may also produce reactive oxygen species that trigger programmed cell death.
Plastids have the ability to differentiate or redifferentiate between these and other forms depending on the developmental stage, environmental conditions and physiological needs of the plant cell. Plastids are thus dynamic organelles that play a vital role in plant life.
Plastids have a double membrane-bound structure, with an outer and an inner membrane enclosing a fluid-filled matrix called the stroma. The stroma contains various enzymes, ribosomes, DNA and other molecules involved in plastid functions. Depending on the type and function of plastids, the stroma may also contain different kinds of pigments, starch granules, lipid droplets or protein crystals.
The most distinctive feature of plastids is the presence of thylakoids, which are flattened membranous sacs arranged in stacks called grana. Thylakoids are the site of photosynthesis in chloroplasts, the green plastids that are responsible for converting light energy into chemical energy. Chloroplasts contain chlorophyll, a green pigment that absorbs light and transfers electrons to the photosynthetic electron transport chain. Chloroplasts also have other accessory pigments, such as carotenoids and xanthophylls, that help in harvesting light and protecting chlorophyll from damage.
Thylakoids have two types of membranes: the thylakoid membrane and the intergranal membrane. The thylakoid membrane is the innermost membrane that forms the sacs of thylakoids. It contains two types of photosystems, PS I and PS II, which are complexes of proteins and pigments that capture light and generate high-energy electrons. The thylakoid membrane also contains other components of the electron transport chain, such as cytochrome b6f complex, plastoquinone, plastocyanin and ferredoxin. The electron transport chain creates a proton gradient across the thylakoid membrane, which drives the synthesis of ATP by ATP synthase.
The intergranal membrane is the outermost membrane that connects the thylakoids of different grana. It contains only PS I and ATP synthase. The intergranal membrane allows for the exchange of protons and electrons between the thylakoids of different grana.
The structure of plastids is dynamic and can change according to the environmental conditions and developmental stages of the plant. For example, proplastids are undifferentiated plastids that can differentiate into different types of plastids depending on the needs of the cell. Chloroplasts can also transform into chromoplasts or gerontoplasts during fruit ripening or leaf senescence, respectively. These changes involve alterations in the number and shape of thylakoids, as well as in the composition and distribution of pigments.
Plastids are essential organelles for plant life, as they perform various functions related to photosynthesis, food storage, pigment synthesis and stress response. The structure of plastids reflects their diverse roles and adaptations to different environmental stimuli. Understanding the structure and function of plastids can help us appreciate the complexity and beauty of plant cells.
Plastids are essential organelles for plant cells, as they perform various functions related to photosynthesis, food storage, and pigmentation. Some of the main functions of plastids are:
- Photosynthesis: Chloroplasts are the sites of photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy. Photosynthesis involves two stages: the light reactions and the Calvin cycle. The light reactions take place in the thylakoid membranes, where chlorophyll and other pigments absorb light and generate ATP and NADPH. The Calvin cycle takes place in the stroma, where CO2 is fixed into organic molecules using the energy from ATP and NADPH. The products of photosynthesis are sugars, which can be used for cellular respiration or stored as starch in plastids.
- Food storage: Plastids can store various types of food molecules, such as starch, lipids, and proteins. Starch is the most common storage product in plastids, especially in amyloplasts. Amyloplasts are leucoplasts that store starch granules in their matrix. They are found in non-photosynthetic tissues, such as roots, tubers, seeds, and fruits. Starch can be broken down into glucose for energy or transported to other parts of the plant. Lipids and proteins are also stored in some plastids, such as elaioplasts and proteinoplasts. Elaioplasts are leucoplasts that store fats or oils in their matrix. They are found in seeds and fruits of oil-producing plants, such as sunflower and olive. Proteinoplasts are leucoplasts that store proteins in their matrix. They are found in seeds and leaves of protein-rich plants, such as legumes and nuts.
- Pigmentation: Plastids can synthesize and store various pigments that give color to plant structures, such as flowers, fruits, and leaves. Pigments are organic molecules that reflect or absorb certain wavelengths of light. The most common pigments in plastids are carotenoids and anthocyanins. Carotenoids are yellow, orange, or red pigments that are found in chromoplasts. Chromoplasts are plastids that contain carotenoids and other accessory pigments. They are found in flowers and fruits that attract pollinators or seed dispersers, such as tomatoes, carrots, and roses. Anthocyanins are blue, purple, or red pigments that are found in vacuoles or cytoplasm of plant cells. They are not synthesized by plastids, but they can be transported to them by vesicles. They are found in flowers and fruits that attract pollinators or seed dispersers, such as grapes, blueberries, and orchids.
Plastids are thus multifunctional organelles that play a vital role in plant metabolism and development. They can adapt to different environmental conditions and developmental stages by changing their morphology and function. Plastids are also involved in signaling pathways and stress responses of plant cells.
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