Plasmodesmata: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 Plant Cell Structure
  • 0:50 Function of the Plasmodesmata
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeremy Battista
The plant cell is as amazing as its counterpart the animal cell. Plant cells have a cell wall that keeps things in and others out. How though, do plants get their nutrients and other extracellular material in? We'll explore the plasmodesmata to find out.

Plant Cell Structure

Plant cells are eukaryotic, meaning that they have a membrane-bound nucleus as well as membrane-bound organelles, specialized sub-units inside of a cell. Besides chloroplasts, which are photosynthesis epicenters, another feature that stands out in plant cells is the cell wall. This rigid layer is made up of polysaccharides, or complex sugars, and in some, almost exclusively of the polysaccharide cellulose.

Here, we see the plant cell, notice the cell wall that is on the outside of the cell.
Plant Cell

The cell wall adds another layer of protection to the cell as well as giving it rigidity and support. It also helps to prevent the cell from too much expansion and rupture by containing the membrane. You can think of the cell wall as something similar to the wall surrounding a castle or a fort. It is meant to keep things out as well as protect the things on the inside.

Function of the Plasmodesmata

By now, you should have a clear understanding of the function of the cell wall, but you may be asking yourself, how can the plant get materials into its cells so that it can function? Well, the cell wall will allow certain micromolecules through. Between plant cells, we see the formation of plasmodesmata. A plasmodesma (plural plasmodesmata, singular plasmodesma) is a channel through the cell wall that allows molecules and substances to move back and forth as needed. Think of the plasmodesma as a tunnel through the castle wall, or the entrance to the castle. Certain materials can pass through freely as needed.

Additionally, plasmodesmata also create junctions from cell to cell, allowing numerous cells to work together towards a common goal. For example, it allows tissues, organs, and organ systems in plants to work together and grow.

The small holes in the cell wall here are the plasmodesmata.

If you were to look at a cutaway of a plant cell, you would see these plasmodesmata connecting to the cells adjacent to them. In the tunnel created by a plasmodesma, the cytosol, liquid inside of the cell and surrounding the organelles, stretches from one cell to meet the next. This cytosol allows movement of materials and organelles around the cell. The plasma membrane in the cells are interconnected in the plasmodesmata, allowing substrate movement between the cells. This allows nutrients that are dissolved in the cytosol to pass from cell to cell. In some cases, proteins as well as RNA (ribonucleic acid; helps in coding DNA) will pass through the plasmodesmata.

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