5 Facts On Food Vacuole In Plant Cells (Formation, Function)

Vacuoles are the sac-like structure found in plants and also in some animals like protozoans. Let us see which type of vacuoles are found in plant cells.

Food vacuoles is a membrane-bound organelle used for the storage of food in plants. Besides this, a large central vacuole is also present inside the plant cell to store water and minerals and prevent the cell from auto-toxicity.

Wrapping of food material by the cell membrane and processing for eating the content is whatsoever performed inside a plant cell. This can be done by cellular digestion, phagocytosis or by chemical-derived mechanisms. Let us find many more facts related to the food vacuoles of plants in this article.

Where are food vacuoles found in plant cells?

Food vacuoles are mostly composed of a single membrane and are found inside the cell. Let us see where the food vacuoles are found in plant cells.

Food vacuoles are found in the cytoplasm of the plant cell. These are the cytoplasmic organelle filled with fluid known as matrix. Some digestive enzymes are also a part of it which helps in the breakdown of large biomolecules.

Food vacuoles are also found in algae, protists and some fungi to maintain the size and shape of the cell with storage, ingestion, and exclusion as the primary function. Secondary metabolites like tannins, diterpenes and triterpenes are also accumulated inside this structure.

How are food vacuoles formed in plant cells?

Food vacuoles are involved in endocytosis as well as exocytosis. Let us see how these food vacuoles are formed.

Food vacuoles are formed by the fusion of phagosomes and pinosomes to lysosomes. The vesicles that arise from the Golgi apparatus are progressively fused to form these vacuoles via endocytotic and biosynthetic pathways.

Figure 05 04 01 11zon 257x300 1
Image credit: Action performed by a plant food vacuole by CNX OpenStax (CC BY 4.0)

Food vacuole functions in plant cell

Food vacuoles contain cell sap, primary and secondary metabolites and little amount of water. Let us see the major functions performed by the food vacuoles.

Listed below are the numerous functions performed by food vacuoles:

  1. Food vacuoles have the ability to store nutrients as well as some of the excretory products inside them.
  2. Some products stored in vacuoles have metabolic functions
  3. Food vacuoles maintain the turgor pressure at a constant level by exchanging body pressure between the vacuoles and the cytoplasm, which is a direct nature greatly alters the tonicity of the fluid. Part of this is the resynthesis of the polymer and the controlled degradation of such polyphosphate within the vacuoles by modification.
  4. Food vacuoles encapsulate the food material and break it into a simpler form. When the food gets digested, nutrients and energy are stored in the cell itself and absorbed during cellular activities.
  5. Due to the increased vacuolar size of food vacuoles, germinating seeds and plants grow quickly.
  6. Food vacuoles also have some hydrolytic enzymes to encounter pathogens and bacteria.
  7. Food vacuoles also maintain cellular acidity and prevents the bursting of cells or cell lysis.
  8. Food vacuoles can sequester substances menacing to plant cells only if they are present in large quantities in the cytoplasm.
  9. Food vacuoles are playing a vital role in the storage of proteins during the germination of seeds, and are known as “protein bodies”.
  10. Food vacuoles have a vital role in homeostatic function in the cell and also help in osmoregulation and lysosomal-vacuolar transport pathways.
  11.  Food vacuoles get merged with lysosomes and act upon the macromolecules by enclosing through the membrane for a cellular-eating mechanism.
  12.  Food gets digested into these food vacuoles and diffuse into the cells while unabsorbed substances are expelled out from the cell.

After the consumption of nutrients, waste products are stored in the phagolysosome to start the process of digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids into glucose, amino acids and tri-fatty acids respectively. So, they play a vital role in biogenesis as well as the degradation of substances.

Food vacuole structure in plant cell

Food vacuoles do not have any specific size or shape. It only depends upon the structure and size of the plants. Let us see how they are structured inside the plant cell.

Food vacuoles are cellular components like nuclei, mitochondria, chloroplasts, centrioles etc. These food vacuoles have a membranal boundary known as vacuolar membrane or tonoplast which is responsible for the segregation of cytoplasmic fluids with the inner matrix.

Food vacuoles are quite smaller in immature plants, saplings and newly grown leaves. The pH of a plant’s food vacuoles becomes high as 10 due to the accumulation of basic components while it can be low by 2-3 because of acidic contents.


In my conclusion, food vacuoles are closed sacs filled with multiple digestive enzymes used in the conversion of complex molecules into tiny molecules. These vacuoles are of four types- contractile, gas, air and sap vacuoles performing different functions in different biological systems.

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