small lytic vacuole with cell cycle-independent morphology, found in most animal cells; contains a variety of hydrolases, most of which have their maximal activities in the pH range 5-6

A lysosome is a cell organelle.[1] They are like spheres and they have hydrolytic enzymes which can break down almost all kinds of biomolecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, lipids, and cellular debris. They contain more than 50 different enzymes.


By convention, lysosome is the term used for animal cells.[2] In plant cells, vacuoles do similar functions. With a wider definition, lysosomes are found in the cytoplasm of plant and protists as well as animal cell.

Lysosome diagram

Lysosomes work like the digestive system to break down, or digest, proteins, acids, carbohydrates, dead organelles, and other unwanted materials.[3] They break up larger molecules into smaller molecules. Those smaller molecules can then be used again as building blocks for other large molecules.[3]Sometimes, when the cell itself is dying or is dead the lysosomes will eat up the cell. This is why they are also known as 'suicide bags' of cells.

References Edit

  1. De Duve C. 2005. The lysosome turns fifty. Nature Cell Biology 7 (9): 847–9. [1]
  2. Lysosome. Yale University. [2] Archived 2015-10-30 at the Wayback Machine
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fullick, Ann (2008). Edexcel AS Biology Students' Book. pp. 142-143. ISBN 978-1-4058-9632-0.