Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER)- Structure, Types, Functions
- Within the cytoplasm of most animal cells is an extensive network (reticulum) of membrane-limited channels, collectively called endoplasmic reticulum (or ER).
- Endoplasmic reticulum is a name derived from the fact that in the light microscope it looks like a “net in the cytoplasm.”
- Endoplasmic reticulum is only present in the eukaryotic cells. However, the occurrence of the endoplasmic reticulum varies from cell to cell.
- For example, the erythrocytes (RBC), egg and embryonic cells lack in endoplasmic reticulum.
- Some portion of ER membranes remains continuous with the plasma membrane and the nuclear envelope.
- ER may be rough or smooth. The outer surface of rough ER has attached ribosomes, whereas smooth ER do not have attached ribosomes.
- The endoplasmic reticulum acts as secretory, storage, circulatory and nervous system for the cell. It is also the site of biogenesis of cellular membranes.
Structure of Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER)
- The membrane of endoplasmic reticulum is of 50 to 60 Aº thickness and fluid-mosaic like the unit membrane of the plasma membrane.
- The membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum are found to contain many kinds of enzymes which are needed for various important synthetic activities. The most important enzymes are the stearases, NADH-cytochrome C reductase, NADH diaphorase, glucose-6-phosphotase and Mg++ activated ATPase.
- The membrane of endoplasmic reticulum remains continuous with the membranes of plasma membrane,nuclear membrane and Golgi apparatus.
- The cavity of the endoplasmic reticulum is well developed and acts as a passage for the secretory products.
The endoplasmic reticulum may occur in the following three forms:
- Lamellar form or cisternae
- Vesicular form or vesicle and
- Tubular form or tubules.
- RER usually exists as cisternae which occur in those cells which have synthetic roles as the cells of pancreas, notochord and brain.
- The cisternae are long, flattened, sac-like, unbranched tubules having the diameter of 40 to 50 μm.
- They remain arranged parallely in bundles or stakes.
- The vesicles are oval; membrane- bound vacuolar structures having the diameter of 25 to 500 μm.
- They often remain isolated in the cytoplasm and occur in most cells but especially abundant in the SER.
- The tubules are branched structures forming the reticular system along with the cisternae and vesicles.
- They usually have the diameter from 50 to 190 μm and occur almost in all the cells.
- Tubular form of ER is often found in SER and is dynamic in nature, i.e., it is associated with membrane movements, fission and fusion between membranes of cytocavity network.
Types of Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER)
1. Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum
- They are also called as agranular endoplasmic reticulum.
- This type of endoplasmic reticulum possesses smooth walls because the ribosomes are not attached with its membranes.
- The smooth type of endoplasmic reticulum occurs mostly in those cells, which are involved in the metabolism of lipids (including steroids) and glycogen. Eg. adipose cells, interstitial cells, glycogen storing cells of the liver, conduction fibres of heart, spermatocytes and leucocytes.
2. Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum
- It possesses rough walls because the ribosomes remain attached with its membranes.
- On their membranes, rough ER (RER) contain certain ribosome specific, transmembrane glycoproteins, called ribophorins I and II, to which are attached the ribosomes while engaged in polypeptide synthesis.
- The rough type of endoplasmic reticulum is found abundantly in those cells which are active in protein synthesis such as pancreatic cells, plasma cells, goblet cells, and liver cells.
Functions of Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER)
- Functions of smooth ER include lipid metabolism (both catabolism and anabolism; they synthesize a variety of phospholipids, cholesterol and steroids).
- Glycogenolysis (degradation of glycogen; glycogen being polymerized in the cytosol).
- Drug detoxification (by the help of the cytochrome P-450).
- The endoplasmic reticulum provides an ultrastructural skeletal framework to the cell and gives mechanical support to the colloidal cytoplasmic martix.
- The exchange of molecules by the process of osmosis, diffusion and active transport occurs through the membranes of endoplasmic reticulum.
- The endoplasmic reticulum is the main component of the endomembrane system, also called the cytoplasmic vacuolar system or cytocavity network.
- The endoplasmic membranes contain many enzymes which perform various synthetic and metabolic activities. Further the endoplasmic reticulum provides increased surface for various enzymatic reactions.
- The endoplasmic reticulum acts as an intracellular circulatory or transporting system.
- As a growing secretory polypeptide emerges from ribosome, it passes through the RER membrane and gets accumulated in the lumen of RER. Here, the polypeptide chains undergo tailoring, maturation, and molecular folding to form functional secondary or tertiary protein molecules.
- RER pinches off certain tiny protein filled vesicles which ultimately get fused to cis Golgi.
- The ER membranes are found to conduct intra-cellular impulses. For example, the sarcoplasmic reticulum transmits impulses from the surface membrane into the deep region of the muscle fibres.
- The ER membranes form the new nuclear envelope after each nuclear division.
- The SER contains several key enzymes that catalyze the synthesis of cholesterol which is also a precursor substance for the biosynthesis of two types of compounds— the steroid hormones and bile acids.
- RER also synthesize membrane proteins and glycoproteins which are cotranslationally inserted into the rough ER membranes. Thus, endoplasmic reticulum is the site of biogenesis of cellular membranes.
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