Function of Vacuoles

If you travel across the US you will notice that many cities a water tower nearby. These are structures that store water for the people in the city. The water is essential for life and needs to be stored for later use. In a similar fashion, plant and animal cells have storage structures called vacuoles. 

Let’s take a look at the vacuoles found in plant and animal cells. 

Although both plants and animal cells have vacuoles they vary greatly in their shape. 

On the left you’ll notice that the vacuole for the plant cell is very large, and there’s one central vacuole. In fact the central vacuole may take up between 30 to 70 percent of the plant cells volume.

The central vacuole in plant cells allow plants to support structures such as leaves and flowers due to the turgor pressure of the central vacuole.

vacuoles in plant and animal cells

Vacuoles in Animal Cells

The vacuoles in animal cells are smaller and there are more of them. They are responsible for a variety of functions, including:

  • Storage: Vacuoles can store a variety of materials, including water, salts, proteins, and carbohydrates. These materials can be used by the cell for energy, growth, or repair.
  • Digestion: Vacuoles contain hydrolytic enzymes that can break down food particles into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by the cell.
  • Waste disposal: Vacuoles can store waste products that are no longer needed by the cell. These waste products can eventually be expelled from the cell through exocytosis.
  •  Transport: Vacuoles can transport materials from one part of the cell to another. This is important for the movement of nutrients, waste products, and other materials within the cell.


In addition, in plant cells the large central vacuole helps maintain internal turgor pressure.  The turgor pressure is the force that pushes the cell membrane against the cell wall. If you have seen a plant wilt, the turgor pressure is low.


Vacuoles are also found in fungal cells, protists, and some bacteria have vacuoles.

In summary, Vacuoles are essential for the proper functioning of animal cells. They play a role in a variety of cellular processes, including storage, digestion, waste disposal, and transport. They are large in plant cells and smaller in animal cells.