The Central Vacuole

Previously, we mentioned vacuoles as essential components of plant cells. If you look at Figure 7, you will see that plant cells each have a large, central vacuole that occupies most of the cell. The central vacuoleplays a key role in regulating the cell’s concentration of water in changing environmental conditions. In plant cells, the liquid inside the central vacuole provides turgor pressure, which is the outward pressure caused by the fluid inside the cell. Have you ever noticed that if you forget to water a plant for a few days, it wilts? That is because as the water concentration in the soil becomes lower than the water concentration in the plant, water moves out of the central vacuoles and cytoplasm and into the soil. As the central vacuole shrinks, it leaves the cell wall unsupported. This loss of support to the cell walls of a plant results in the wilted appearance. Additionally, this fluid can deter herbivory since the bitter taste of the wastes it contains discourages consumption by insects and animals. The central vacuole also functions to store proteins in developing seed cells.

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