Plant Cell Mitochondria: Structure & Role

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  • 0:05 What Are Mitochondria?
  • 0:41 Mitochondria Role
  • 1:52 Mitochondria Structure
  • 3:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, you will learn about the mitochondria of plant cells, including their structure and their role, especially in producing energy for the plant.

What Are Mitochondria?

When you turn on a light switch, where does the energy come from? For many people, it is produced at a power plant, where raw materials are processed and transformed into energy that we can use. This is exactly what mitochondria do for plant cells. Mitochondria (or mitochondrion, if there's only one) are small, organ-like structures inside of cells that are the powerhouse of the cell. These small, organ-like structures are known as organelles. Mitochondria take raw material and transform it into a form of energy that the plant can easily use.

Mitochondria Role

So what exactly does this mean? The raw material for plant mitochondria comes in the form of glucose produced by photosynthesis. The mitochondria take this and go through a process called oxidative phosphorylation, which is where the glucose is transformed using a series of proteins and enzymes. The transformed glucose is a molecule known as pyruvate.

Pyruvate is then combined with oxygen in the inner part of the mitochondria, forming ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is a molecule that can be easily used by the plants as a source of chemical energy. Mitochondria are the main sources of energy for each cell, and therefore for the plant as a whole. The process for converting raw nutrient materials into usable energy is known as cellular respiration.

While energy production is the main function of the mitochondria, they also perform other services for a cell. For example, mitochondria play an important role in programmed cell death, where cells that are acting abnormally are killed. This prevents abnormal cells from harming the plant or interfering with growth and reproduction.

Mitochondria Structure

Mitochondria are made up of three main sections: the outer membrane, the inner membrane, and the matrix, which is located inside the inner membrane.

Mitochondria are double-membrane bound organelles, which means they have two sets of membranes. The outer membrane is smooth and permeable, meaning that small molecules can pass freely through it in either direction. This permeability is how glucose molecules go into the mitochondria, and how ATP molecules move from the mitochondria into the rest of the cell.

The inner membrane is less smooth. It is folded many times (think of an accordion) to increase the surface area and allow for a higher rate of ATP production. Proteins along the membrane help with this process. The inner membrane is less permeable than the outer membrane. Only oxygen and ATP molecules are allowed through. The space formed by the folds of the inner membrane is known as the cristae, and it's in the cristae that the reactions to produce ATP take place.

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