Which Organelle Is Considered as the Suicidal Bag of the Cell?


As we delve into the complex world of cell biology, we come across a term that is both intriguing and alarming - the suicide bag of the cell. It is a term used to describe an organelle that plays a crucial role in the process of programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis.

The suicide bag of the cell is the lysosome, an organelle found in eukaryotic cells that is responsible for breaking down and recycling cellular waste

Lysosomes were first discovered by Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve in the 1950s. He described them as "suicide bags" due to their ability to release enzymes that can cause cell death.

However, as research progressed, it was found that lysosomes also play a vital role in the normal functioning of cells. Lysosomes are involved in many different cellular processes, including digestion, metabolism, and cell signalling.

Structure and Function of Lysosomes

Lysosomes are small, spherical organelles that are enclosed by a single lipid bilayer membrane. The membrane of the lysosome is responsible for isolating the contents of the organelle from the rest of the cell, ensuring that the digestive enzymes do not damage other cellular components. The pH inside the lysosome is maintained at an acidic level of around pH 4.5 to 5.0, which is essential for the activity of the digestive enzymes.

The lysosome is a dynamic organelle that constantly changes in size, shape, and content. It is formed by the fusion of vesicles that are transported to the lysosome from the Golgi apparatus, the endoplasmic reticulum, or the plasma membrane. Once inside the lysosome, the vesicle is broken down by the lysosomal enzymes and its components are recycled.

The lysosome contains more than 50 different hydrolytic enzymes, including proteases, lipases, nucleases, and glycosidases. These enzymes are responsible for breaking down a wide range of molecules, including proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids. The lysosome is involved in the breakdown of many cellular components, including damaged organelles, macromolecules, and bacteria that have been engulfed by the cell.

Role of Lysosomes in Apoptosis

Apoptosis is a natural process that occurs in multicellular organisms to eliminate damaged or unnecessary cells. It is a highly regulated process that involves the activation of specific signalling pathways and the expression of genes that promote cell death. Apoptosis is essential for the normal development and maintenance of tissues and organs, as well as for the removal of abnormal or potentially harmful cells, such as cancer cells.

Lysosomes play a critical role in the process of apoptosis. During apoptosis, lysosomes release their hydrolytic enzymes into the cytoplasm, where they break down cellular components and trigger the dismantling of the cell. This process is known as lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) and is a hallmark of apoptosis

LMP is triggered by the activation of specific proteins, such as Bax and Bak, which are members of the Bcl-2 family of proteins. These proteins are involved in the regulation of mitochondrial function, which plays a crucial role in apoptosis. When activated, Bex and Bac promote the release of lysosomal enzymes into the cytoplasm, leading to cell death.

The lysosome is also involved in the regulation of apoptosis through the activation of specific signalling pathways. For example, lysosomal proteases such as cathepsins have been shown to activate caspases, which are enzymes that are essential for the execution of apoptosis. In addition, lysosomes can release signalling molecules, such as sphingosine, which can induce apoptosis in neighbouring cells.


The lysosome is a dynamic organelle that plays a critical role in many cellular processes, including protein degradation, autophagy, and apoptosis. Lysosomes are involved in a wide range of diseases, including lysosomal storage diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer. Given the critical role of lysosomes in many diseases, there is growing interest in developing therapies that target lysosomal function.

The discovery of the suicide bag of the cell has shed new light on the importance of lysosomes in the process of programmed cell death. The lysosome is now recognized as a key mediator of apoptosis, and targeting lysosomal function is a promising approach for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

While the discovery of the suicide bag of the cell has provided new insights into the role of lysosomes in apoptosis, there is still much to learn about the mechanisms that regulate lysosomal function. Future research is needed to better understand how lysosomes are regulated and how they interact with other cellular organelles and pathways.

In conclusion, the suicide bag of the cell, or the lysosome, is a dynamic organelle that plays a critical role in many cellular processes. The discovery of the lysosome as a key mediator of apoptosis has opened up new avenues for the development of therapies for cancer and other diseases. As research into lysosomal function continues, we can expect to uncover even more insights into the complex and multifaceted roles of the suicide bag of the cell.

Updated on: 04-May-2023


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