Amyloplast: Function & Definition

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  • 0:00 What Is an Amyloplast?
  • 0:55 What Is Starch?
  • 2:04 What Is a Plastid?
  • 3:40 Amyloplasts: Function…
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Darla Reed

Darla has taught undergraduate Enzyme Kinetics and has a doctorate in Basic Medical Science

In this lesson, you will learn what an amyloplast is and its purpose in a plant cell. You will also learn a bit about its structure, what's inside it, as well as where it can be found. In addition, you'll learn about types of plastids and how they develop.

What Is an Amyloplast?

When you go to the store to get food, do you eat all the food you buy in the store immediately? Do you eat every bit of it when you get home? No, of course not. You may make some food in your kitchen for immediate consumption, but you'll usually put the rest in the fridge or pantry and store it there until you're hungry and need it for energy at some later date.

Even though plants don't get their food from the grocery store, they do the same thing. They store their food until they need it for energy. Plants don't put their food in cans. Instead, they keep it as starch, which can be broken down and used for energy when needed. The places where starch is stored are called amyloplasts.

Amyloplasts are organelles in plant cells where starch is made from glucose and stored until the plant has need of it; it's their pantry, so to speak. Starch is converted back to glucose when the plant needs the energy, just like you may open a can of soup when you're hungry.

What Is Starch?

Starch is a molecule made up of many glucose pieces. Glucose is the main sugar plants use to make energy. When the plant needs glucose it breaks down stored starch. When the plant needs to store energy it makes starch by stringing together glucose molecules.

There are two types of starch, amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is a long unbranched chain of glucose that can curl up like a ribbon to take up less space. Amylopectin is a chain of glucose that has branches every 20 to 25 glucose molecules. It doesn't curl up as nicely as amylose.

Now, starch granules can't just go floating around in the cell, just like you can't leave cans of soup lying all over the kitchen floor - they would get in the way and make guests trip. This is where amyloplasts come into play. The amyloplasts store that starch out of the way until it is needed. Note that the terms for the two types of starch, amylose and amylopectin, both begin with amylo. So, it makes sense that both are stored in something called an amyloplast.

What Is a Plastid?

A plastid is an organelle inside plant cells that has two membranes, an inner membrane and an outer membrane, as well as an inner fluid called stroma. Plastids can be very large structures and are often numerous. They are frequently used to store things the cell needs, but can have other functions as well.

We just discussed amyloplasts above and you've probably heard of a chloroplast, or the place plant cells store chlorophyll. The plast part of the terms amyloplast and chloroplast indicates they are plastids, even though they store different things.

There are two kinds of plastids. One kind of plastid has pigments, or color, and the other kind does not have pigments, and therefore is colorless. Colorless plastids are called leucoplasts. An amyloplast is a leucoplast. It doesn't have pigment or color. Leucoplasts are found in a variety of non-photosynthetic plant tissues and serve various functions, including, as in the case of an amyloplast, the storage of starch.

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