Food Vacuole: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 What Are Food Vacuoles?
  • 1:15 Food Vacuole Formation
  • 1:51 Food Vacuole Function
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeremy Battista
Vacuoles are small membrane-bound sacs inside of a cell. Food vacuoles in particular have a small role but a major responsibility inside of a cell. We will look at what they do in terms of helping cells.

What Are Food Vacuoles?

Vacuoles are membrane-bound sacs found in cells. They are larger than their closer relative, the vesicle. They are small sacs formed when food comes into contact with the cellular membrane. The vacuole itself is often created from the plasma membrane pinching off whatever is needed to be destroyed. Our cells have many different types of vacuoles, and other living creatures' cells have even more of an array of vacuoles. These little tiny sacs are important in a very big way.

Food vacuoles are only found in some cells of plants, protists, fungi, and animals. Food vacuoles are essentially a circular portion of the plasma membrane that encircles food particles when they enter the cell. Once inside, the food vacuoles are the mechanism by which a cell 'eats,' so the food particles can be used as energy. They work closely together with lysosomes, which will be discussed later in the lesson.

You can picture a food vacuole as if it were something out of a horror movie. Similar in part to some alien life form like the Blob, a food vacuole will surround and consume the food held within it. As you may remember, the Blob would attack and consume people by absorbing them--which is just like how a vacuole works.

Food Vacuole Formation

Food vacuoles form when the food is pushed toward the cell where the membrane bends inward. As the food pushes against the membrane, the membrane stretches inward until the food particle is completely in the cell, where the membrane then pinches off, forming a vacuole. This form of eating is called phagocytosis. Phagocytosis means 'cell eating' and is the way by which smaller, single celled organisms eat. Imagine if you will, being able to wrap around food and just absorb it into you. Well, this is similar to how a food vacuole works.

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