Why Pancreatic Cells Have More Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum

Recently, a question was sent in by one of our readers:

It has been found out that certain cells of the pancreas, which synthesize and release digestive enzymes (proteins), have more rough endoplasmic reticulum and golgi apparati than other cells. Why?

This is a really good question and it highlights the importance of knowing your cell biology and using that knowledge to make conclusions about cell structure relating to specialized cell function.

Before I answer this question, I would like to talk more in general terms about how to use your knowledge to draw logical conclusions in cell biology.

Understanding the Cell Structure

The structure of a cell can tell us a lot about its specific functions as every component has a purpose in the functioning of the cell. Cytoskeleton helps maintain a cell’s shape and structure; microvilli increase surface area for absorption and secretion; and cilia aid movement.

Parts of a cell from Encyclopedia Britannica accessed on August 17, 2021.
Parts of a Cell (image accessed from Encyclopædia Britannica website on August 17, 2021).

Organelles also have specialized functions, for example:

  • Nucleus – Cell signalling centre and DNA container, controls cell functions such as synthesis and cell replication
  • Mitochondria – ATP synthesis (energy production)
  • Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum – Translation and folding of proteins
  • Smooth Endoplasmic Rediculum – Lipid synthesis
  • Golgi Apparatus – Protein sorting, modification and packaging for secretion
  • Vacuole – Exocytosis and endocytosis including phagocytosis in macrophages
  • Lysosome – breakdown of large molecules such as proteins or polysacciarides
  • Ribosome – Protein synthesis (tRNA->Protein)

Now, keeping this in mind, consider the functions and structures of certain specialized cells. You can use this information to draw a logical conclusion about how the structure of the cell relates to its function. Here are some examples:

  • Macrophages – These cells have many enzyme-filled lysosomes in order to break down foreign bodies.
Image of a macrophage cell.
A Macrophage Cell
  • Mature Red Blood Cells – These cells are containers for hemoglobin. In order to maximise their carrying capacity and surface area for Oxygen-Carbon dioxide exchange, they have ejected their nucleus prior to entering the blood stream.
  • Nerve cells – Nerve cells are very active; they need a lot of energy and thus, they have large numbers of mitochondria in order to be supplied quickly with the large amounts of ATP needed to drive their sodium/potassium pumps.

Learning how to draw these conclusions is very useful as it can help you quickly work out a potential, logical answer to a question, even if you haven’t been taught the answer directly.

Remember though that if you aren’t sure, it is always best to ask as there may be some strange, obscure reason that something occurs that deviates from this way of thinking.

Now, back to our question.


So, why do Pancreatic Cells have more Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum?

Using this way of thinking, we can come to the logical conclusion that because pancreatic secretory cells are making large amounts of enzymes, which are proteins, they would need a large number of ribosomes to translate tRNA to protein, lots of rough endoplasmic reticulum to fold the protein and many Golgi to prepare and package the proteins for secretion. That is the logical conclusion as to why they have so many of these particular organelles.

Now, there may be an additional reason for this however, this is my theory as to why this is so.

Hope it helps. Happy studying! 🙂

You may also like

T-Cell Development and Maturation

T-Cell Development and Maturation

Page [tcb_pagination_current_page] of [tcb_pagination_total_pages]

Leave a Reply

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this information. I am taking cell physiology and the way you explained how to logically think gives my brain such a relief. I was looking at a comparison table of the liver compared with pancreatic cells membrane-enclosed organelles and noticed the vast difference in the amount of rough ER (endoplasmic reticulum), Smooth ER, and Golgi apparatus. I could not understand why there would be more rough ER (endoplasmic reticulum) and Golgi apparatus for my life, my professor only explained why there were more Smooth ER in the liver than pancreatic cells (due to importance of detoxification).
    Thanks again and I hope that your journey to becoming a doctor is a blessed one.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get in touch

0 of 350