What Are Plastids? 

Plastids are two-membrane-bound organelles which play a role in nutrition production and storage.

Plant photosynthesis cells are where you’ll find it. 

What Are Plastids

Plastids were found and identified by Ernst Haeckel, but it was Schimper who provided the first accurate definition.

They are required for life functions like photosynthesis processes and the storage of food. 

A chloroplast is a kind of plastid which contains the green coloring (chlorophyll), while a chromoplast is a kind of plastid which contains colors other than green.

A leucoplast doesn’t really have any coloration and is mostly used in the food storage industry.

This article will discuss plastids and how they work in more detail. Keep reading to find out why plastids are so important.

What Are The Varieties Of Plastids?

They are formed by meristem cells inside the plant, just as all other plant cells.

Meristems are the primary source of undifferentiated cells in plants, and they are located within the shoots and roots.

Proplastids are undifferentiated plastids generated from meristems, and they are the parents of plastids.

The progenitor’s continued expansion results in the formation of numerous varieties of plastids, each of which plays a particular role in the overall metabolism.


Chloroplasts are plastids present in plant leaves’ mesophyll cells.

When the vacuole squeezes them up into the wall of the cell , they form a monolayer.

Certain chloroplasts are located within the plant’s epidermal cells but they seem to be not as evolved as the ones located within mesophyll cells.

Chloroplast sizes differ between species of plants and in  plants.

For example, although epidermal cells’ chloroplasts are less developed and smaller , mesophyll cells’ chloroplasts are bigger with more development.

The quantity of chlorophyll detected within the cell increases as the surface of the thylakoid increases. In the chloroplast, The thylakoid layer occupies an area of around 500 micrometres square.

Chloroplasts feature a spherical -like (oval) shape which may be attributed to being pressed up into the wall of the cell by the large vacuole.

However, based on the location of the plastid, this can change.

According to research, plastids are separated into two groups, each ranging in size between around 5 and 10 micrometres based on the type of plant.

Chloroplasts get dual membrane layers consisting of an inner and outer membrane.

The stroma has a watery layer that goes over the gap between the membranes.

A number of enzymes and proteins are located within this watery layer, which are required for biological functions.


The word “chromo” comes from the Greek word “chromos,” which means “colour.”

Chromoplasts are brightly coloured plastids that function as pigmentation sites.

They are most typically found in fleshy fruits, flowers, and other pigmented plant components, such as leaves.

Carotenoids, which are pigments that amass in chromoplast organelles, play an important role in pollination because they are visually appealing to pollinating animals.

Chromoplasts differ greatly in structure depending on the type of carotenoids they contain.

Despite the fact that chromoplasts can develop straight through their progenitors, they have also been shown to develop from chloroplasts during the ripening of fleshy fruit.

It is feasible for chromoplasts to return to chloroplasts, which are photosynthesis sites, in some cases.

Chromoplasts are divided into two categories:

  • Phaeoplast – Brownish plastid found in brown algae.
  • Rhodoplast – Plastids that have been detected in red algae.

They’re places where pigment is made. Pollination is aided by chromoplasts, which attract a range of bird and animal species to the bloom.

When an animal comes into contact with plant pollen, it is able to assure pollination when it moves from one plant to the next.


Leucoplasts are colourful plastids that are located within colourless leaves and quickly expanding tissue. 

These plastids are involved in the production and storage of starch.

They lack pigments like chlorophyll, unlike plastids like the chromoplast and chloroplast.

They can also be found deep within the tissue of plant seeds, where they are not exposed to direct sunlight.

Although storage is the major role, some leucoplasts are also involved in the creation of fats and lipids.

There are three main kinds of leucoplast:


“Amylo” is a Greek word that means “starch.” Amyloplasts are a kind of plastid responsible for the long-term storage of starch.

Amyloplasts, like other plastids, are made up of proplastids. Starch’s synthesis process is restricted to plastids. 

Amyloplasts play an important role in starch storage.

Unlike other plastids, they have an incredibly thin membrane within and can hold one or a few bigger grains.

Amyloplasts, like chloroplasts, feature a double-membrane with stroma.

Starch granules can be generated and stored inside the stroma of amyloplasts. Amyloplasts are thought to contribute to gravimetric sensors as well. 

They assist in the direction of root growth to the soil in this way.

Aside from retaining gravisensing and starch, several species’ amyloplasts have been shown to produce proteins (in the GSGOGAT cycle) that aid nitrogen absorption.


The word “Elaiov” comes from the Greek word “olive.” Elaioplasts, unlike amyloplasts, belong to a separate form of leucoplast that contains oil.

The little drops of fats inside the plastids are due to the fact that they are employed to retain oils and lipids.

In terms of its structure, elaioplasts lack a distinct internal structure. Just drops and lipids (plastoglobuli) occur as a result. 

While other plastids may include some plastoglobuli, it is the enormous quantity of plastoglobules and their composition that distinguishes this from other plastids.

Elaioplasts are further distinguished by their compact size and spherical form.

In comparison to other plastids, they are extremely rare. They are most typically found in the tapetal cells of various plants. They contribute to the development of the pollen wall.


Proteinoplasts contain more proteins than other plastids. In addition, the proteins are large enough to be seen under a microscope.

Proteins can adhere to membranes or form crystalline or amorphous inclusions.

The organelle also contains the following ingredients (enzymes): polyphenol oxidases and peroxidases. 


Gerontoplasts are chloroplasts that have gone through the ageing process.

They are chloroplasts within leaves that are beginning to convert into other organelles or have been reused since the leaf is not utilising photosynthesis, specifically during the fall season. 

Plastids have the ability to identify, or redifferentiate, and take other forms, based on their morphology and function.

What Are Plastids

Plastids’ Structure

In plants with larger concentrations of chloroplasts, they can be spherical, discoid, or ovoid, whereas in algae, they can be cups, stellate, or spiral. 

They are generally 4-6 millimetres in size and can be found in groups of 20-40 in each cell in higher plants, distributed evenly within a cytoplasm.

The chloroplast is held together by two lipoprotein membranes, one external and the other inner. 

The interior of the membrane is surrounded by a stroma-like matrix made up of small, round structures called grana. Most chloroplasts have between 10 and 100 grana.

Thylakoids And Grana

Every granum is composed of a stack of membrane sacs called thylakoids which are layered on top of each other.

Inter-grana, or lamellae stroma, is a system of tubules that link the grana together.

Chloroplasts comprise a single thylakoid, referred to as stroma thylakoids.

The stroma’s matrix also contains osmophilic and granules, ribosomes, circular DNA and other enzymes.

The external layer, the inner membrane, the thylakoid layer constitute chloroplasts.

Lipoproteins with increased levels of lipids make up the thylakoid layer. 

Because of the small spheroidal quantosomes, the outside layer of a thylakoid cell membrane is very granular. 

Photosynthetic measurements are known as quantosomes. They are composed of two distinct photosystems containing over 200 molecules of chlorophyll. 

Both photosystems contain chlorophyll antenna complexes with a reactivity centre where any energy is transferred. 

The dual photosystems and electron transport chain components are symmetrically distributed all through the thylakoid layer.

The outer (stroma) part of the thylakoid layer contains electron acceptors for both PS I & PS II.

PS I electron donors are found on the thylakoid space’s inner (thylakoid space) surface.

The Double-Membrane System (DMS) 

For a wide range of plastids double membrane is discovered to feature the sole membrane that is in good condition (permanent). 

It’s made up of galactolipids and other elements. Plastids are only able to encode the minimum amount of proteins because of a genome decrease of plastids, especially in cells.

Because of this, they rely largely on proteins made by the nucleus of the cell.

This suggests that the plastid’s double-membrane membrane plays an important role in the transport of proteins out from the cell’s cytoplasm to the plastid.

Aside from carrying proteins, The membrane is also an important part of the signalling process. 

When it pertains to gene expression, interaction between plastids and the nucleus of the cell is critical.

The membrane is an important component of cell signalling and, as a result, of gene expression control.

Other uses for plastid envelopes include:

  • Other materials, including essential metals and metabolites, are transported.
  • Metabolic pathways for fatty acids, carotenoids, and lipids, among other things.
  • Manufacturing of plant growth regulators.
  • Interaction with the cytokine and endomembrane systems of cells.

Inner Membrane

The interior membranes of plastids are most usually observed in terrestrial plants.

It develops throughout time from the inner envelope of the membrane (of dual membrane) and the liquid components.

In some cases, this membrane may be capable of connecting to the membrane of the plastid, forming a membrane known as the peripheral reticulum.

This mechanism is critical for the transport of many chemicals from the cell’s cytoplasm towards the plastid and back.

Plastid Stoma 

Stroma is the term given to the interior space that is enclosed by the plastid’s twofold membrane.

The thylakoid and numerous different organelles inside the plastid are surrounded by a colourless matrix or fluid.

The stroma also contains the following elements:


The plastid stroma’s most noticeable feature is the ribosome.

They can be attributed to the formation of polyribosomes, which are a component of mRNA (messenger RNA) proteins, in certain cells. the existence of a ribosome in a plastid indicates protein production.

Proteins are required for a range of jobs, including chemical reactions and damage repair.

As a result, the existence of such a ribosome is required for the different plastid processes that occur within cells.


Nucleoids are DNA and DNA duplications found in plastids.

They are the main operational component of the plastid genome, just like the nucleus in a cell.

Nucleoids in the plastid are either connected with chloroplast thylakoids or dispersed randomly across the stroma.

Between one organism and the next, the quantity of nucleoids varies dramatically.

Chloroplasts in particular, contain a higher number of nucleoids than non-green plastids which are green. 

Before evolving into the continual DNA ring within plastids, nucleoids can be grouped in an extended ring. However, linear genomes have also been discovered in plastids.

Plastids, like mitochondria, are semi-autonomous entities.

They also have their own genetic material and are thus capable of producing the proteins required for normal operation. 

However, in the growth of plastids, careful coordination between plastids and cells is critical since plastids may rely on cells for specific components essential in the process.

Other aspects of the plastid that may be found within the stroma include:

  • Etioplasts
  • Stromacenters
  • Platoglobuli
  • Starch

Plastids’ Inheritance

Plastids are inherited by the bulk of plants from only one parent.

Plastids are inherited by angiosperms from female gametes, while gymnosperms acquire plastids via male pollen. Plastids are also passed on from one parent to the other in algae. 

As a result, the plastid DNA of one parent has vanished.

The transfer of plastid DNA is thought to be essentially 100 percent uniparental in normal intraspecific crossings (resulting in healthy hybrids from one species).

However, this inheritance is said to be more varied in interspecific hybridizations. During interspecific hybridizations, plastids are usually inherited maternally.

There have been numerous cases of hybrids among plant species that carry the father’s plastids.

Approximately 20% of angiosperms, like Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), have biparental plastid inheritance.

What Are Plastids (1)

Where Did Plastids Come From? 

Endosymbiosis, the process of a single celled heterotrophic protist enveloping and keeping an unrestricted photosynthetic cyanobacterium rather than digesting it in the vacuole, explains their origin. 

The trapped cell (the endosymbiont) became diminished to a functioning organelle connected by two membranes and passed down to successive generations vertically. 

The historical lineages of a eukaryote group  “Plantae” which includes many photosynthetic algae and land plants, were established by this unlikely set of events.

Plastids And Their Functions

Plastids are located withinevery plant cell and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

This is a list of their many roles, demonstrating that plastids are vital to plant cell activity.

Plastids are the locations where important chemical compounds used by autotrophic eukaryotes’ cells are produced and stored. Each enzyme element needed for utilizing photosynthesis is located within the thylakoid layer. 

In the thylakoid layer, there is communication between chlorophyll, electron transporters, coupling variables, and other aspects.

This is how the thylakoid has a unique advantage that plays a crucial role in electron and light capture and storage.

Chloroplasts are therefore organelles involved in glucose production and metabolism.

They play a role not just in photosynthesis – they also play a role in food storage, particularly starch.

Its function is mostly controlled by the quantity of pigments present. 

Pigments that determine the appearance and color of the plant and are usually located in plastids used in the synthesis of food.

Plastids, like mitochondria, have ribosomes and DNA. As a result, they can be used within phylogenetic analysis.

What Are Phylogenetic Studies?

Branching diagrams are used in phylogenetic analysis to depict the evolutionary origins or relationship between distinct species, animals, or properties of  organisms (genes, proteins, organs, and so on) that evolved from a common ancestor.

A phylogenetic tree is the name for the diagram. Phylogenetic analysis is useful for discovering biodiversity, genetic classifications, and evolutionary developmental processes.

Phylogenetic analysis currently uses the sequence of a gene to understand evolutionary relationships among species, thanks to advances in genetic sequencing tools. 

DNA, which is the hereditary material, can be sequenced easily, quickly, and cheaply, and the information acquired through genetic sequencing is exceedingly particular and useful.

What Are Some Examples Of Phylogenetic Analysis Applications?

Phylogenetic analysis allows researchers to have a better grasp of how organisms evolve as a result of genetic alterations. 

Scientists can use phylogenetics to examine the route that connects a modern creature to its ancient origin, and also anticipate future genetic divergence.

In forensics, environmental biology, microbiology, drug development and medicinal chemistry, protein structure and function prediction, and gene function prediction, phylogenetics has various uses in and biological domains.

In molecular phylogenetic studies using gene sequencing data, a more accurate calculation of the complex relationship between species is now achievable. 

Molecular phylogenetic analysis can also be used to perform Linnaean categorization (based on similarity in visible physical features) of newly evolved species.

Modern phylogenetic analysis is used to acquire information on disease outbreaks in public health applications.

The epidemiological correlation between genetic sequences of a disease, such as HIV, can be used to identify risk factors of pathogen transmission.

In environmental studies, phylogenetic analysis can identify which species are on the verge of extinction and, as a result, need to be protected.

Comparative genomics, which analyses the link between genomes of various species, can benefit from phylogenetic analysis. 

Gene prediction and gene finding, which entails detecting certain genetic areas along a genome, is one of the most important applications in this domain.

Phylogenetic testing of pharmaceutically related species can assist in the identification of closely related species of pharmacological value.

Phylogenetic analysis can be used to detect and classify diverse microorganisms, including bacteria, in microbiology.

Final Thoughts

Plant and algal cells contain plastids, which are double-membrane organelles.

Plastids are in charge of food production and storage. These frequently contain photosynthetic pigments and other pigments that can modify the appearance of the cell.

The losses and gains of plastids throughout all eukaryotes cannot be explained simply.

The formation of core plastids via endosymbiosis with a cyanobacterium is well-known, however the origins of secondary plastids remain a source of debate. 

However, based on several empirical research, the chromalveolate theory (and the subsequent endosymbiosis featuring a red alga) seems to be the best-supported explanation to date. 

Furthermore, plastid beginnings in other eukaryotic lineages are explained via tertiary endosymbioses including other free-living eukaryotes. 

To properly verify existing hypotheses surrounding the evolutionary history of plastids in eukaryotes, more research and scientific verification (where possible) are required. 

Hopefully, this article has helped you learn more about plastids, their roles and functions and why they are important.

Jennifer Dawkins

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *