Lysosomes and Peroxisomes


Lysosomes are roughly spherical bodies bounded by a single membrane. They are manufactured by the Golgi apparatus (pathway 2 in the figure).

Link to a discussion of how proteins synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum are sent to the appropriate destinations.
They contain over 3 dozen different kinds of hydrolytic enzymes including

The pH within the lysosome is about pH 5, substantially less than that of the cytosol (~pH 7.2). All the enzymes in the lysosome work best at an acid pH. This reduces the risk of their digesting their own cell if they should escape from the lysosome.

At one time, it was thought that lysosomes were responsible for killing cells scheduled to be removed from a tissue; for example, the resorption of its tail as the tadpole metamorphoses into a frog. This is incorrect. These examples of programmed cell death (PCD) or apoptosis take place by an entirely different mechanism. Link to a discussion of apoptosis.

Materials within the cell scheduled for digestion are first deposited within lysosomes. These may be:

Lysosomes repair wounds in the plasma membrane.

The exocytosis of lysosomes provides the additional membrane needed to quickly seal wounds in the plasma membrane.


Peroxisomes are about the size of lysosomes (0.5-1.5 µm) and like them are bound by a single membrane.

They also resemble lysosomes in being filled with enzymes.

The enzymes and other proteins destined for peroxisomes are synthesized in the cytosol. Each contains a peroxisomal targeting signal (PTS) that binds to a receptor molecule that takes the protein into the peroxisome and then returns for another load.

Two peroxisomal targeting signals have been identified:

Each has its own receptor to take it to the peroxisome.

Some of the functions of the peroxisomes in the human liver:

Peroxisome Disorders

A variety of rare inherited disorders of peroxisome function occur in humans.

Peroxisomes are also called microbodies.

Link to schematic showing lysosomes and peroxisomes in a typical animal cell.
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2 August 2001