Endoplasmic Reticulum: Definition & Functions

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

The space inside an organism's cells where production occurs is known as the endoplasmic reticulum. Learn the components of the endoplasmic reticulum and distinguish between the functions of the smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum. Updated: 09/15/2021

Definition of Endoplasmic Reticulum

Have you ever worked in or visited a large factory? If so, you probably noticed that the largest and most important area of the factory is the production space where the products are assembled. In a cell, this production space is the surface of the endoplasmic reticulum. This is where numerous chemical reactions and processes take place. Without it, production would be closed down, and the cell factory would be out of business.

Cells have many organelles that work together to help them complete their life functions. One of those organelles is the endoplasmic reticulum, which is an interconnected network of membranes used to make proteins, steroids, and lipids located near the nucleus. The surface of the endoplasmic reticulum is basically a workspace for the cell. To maximize the amount of surface area that is available the membranes are folded tightly, rather than being one flat surface.

The endoplasmic reticulum is composed of sac-like structures called cisternae that are folded and bound together. There are two types of endoplasmic reticulum: smooth endoplasmic reticulum, which has a smooth folded surface, and rough endoplasmic reticulum which has a surface studded with ribosomes, making it appear bumpy.

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In this diagram, number three points to rough endoplasmic reticulum. Number four points to smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and number five indicates a ribosome.
An image of endoplasmic reticulum.

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