Difference Between Lysosomes and Ribosomes


What are Lysosomes and Ribosomes

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A cell needs various compartments to carry out a mix of functions that are necessary not only for the working of the cell but the organism as a whole especially in the case of multicellular organisms. Out of the many different compartments known as cell organelles, there are two specialized centers, one for production and the other for degradation. They are known as ribosomes and lysosomes responsible for the production of proteins and destruction of proteins respectively. Thus, lysosomes and ribosomes are two different cell organelles that are very different in their function and are different in their physiological nature as well. Lysosomes on one hand are the organelles responsible for the breakdown of many types of biological molecules whereas ribosomes are macromolecular machines that are responsible for performing protein synthesis. In terms of nature, lysosomes are membrane-bound organelles whereas ribosomes do not have a membrane. So, even though they are cell organelles there is a considerable difference between lysosomes and ribosomes.

Moving further a brief description of the lysosomes and ribosomes is provided below. It will be followed by a difference between lysosomes and ribosomes.


As described above lysosomes are membrane-bound organelles whose function is to break down different biomolecules such as nucleic acids, peptides, carbohydrates, and lipids. They are spherical vesicles that consist of many hydrolytic enzymes that break the molecules. It is known that lysosomes are the waste disposal system of the cells. This is because they digest the biomolecules present in the cytoplasm irrespective of the origin of the material either belonging to the cell or coming from the outside via autophagy or endocytosis respectively. 

A typical lysosome consists of a membrane and its lumenal proteins. The lumen of a lysosome provides an acidic environment of pH range 4.5-5.0 for the proteins to carry out their hydrolytic functions and their sustenance which is not possible in the cytoplasm. Thus, this effectively helps in avoiding the degradation of functional proteins in the cytoplasm. The molecules that are destined for lysosomes are specifically tagged by mannose-6-phosphate so that they end up in acidic vesicles that are being routed to the lysosomes.

An important fact about the lysosomes is that it is a unique cell organelle present mostly in the animal cell only. They are quite less in number in plant cells. 


Ribosomes are the molecular machinery whose function is to carry out protein synthesis. Thus, this is the site of protein production in the cell. For this reason, ribosomes and the related molecules are known as translational apparatus. They are generally found either floating in the cytoplasm or attached to the endoplasmic reticulum.

Even though they are identified as cell organelle, a characteristic difference between lysosomes and ribosomes is that the ribosomes are made up of protein subunits which when combined together form the ribosomal complex. It consists of two subunits: small and large ribosomal subunits where each subunit is made up of ribosomal RNA molecules and ribosomal proteins. This is because ribosomes link the amino acids together as per the codons of messenger RNA. 

Unlike the lysosomes, ribosomes are found in all types of cells and are essential parts of any eukaryotic cell.

Difference Between Lysosomes and Ribosomes

The difference between lysosomes and ribosomes can be summarized and is shown below:



They are membrane-bound organelles.

They are large protein complexes made up of two protein subunits.

They are found mostly in animal cells. Plant cells may have lysosomes but they are not one of the major organelles in them and are not as important as in the case of animal cells.

They are found in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

They generally have a size ranging in micrometers.

They typically are in 20 nm - 30 nm in size.

They are found floating around in the cytoplasm. 

They are either freely floating in the cytoplasm or are attached to the endoplasmic reticulum.

They are the waste degradation centers of the cell. 

They are the protein production centers of the cell.

They consist of hydrolytic enzymes that break down molecules such as peptides, proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids.

They consist of ribosomal RNA and ribosomal proteins that help in synthesizing proteins from the messenger RNA.

As you go through the given diagram the difference between lysosomes and ribosomes will be quite evident. The diagram is as follows:

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Thus, there is a significant difference between lysosomes and ribosomes both in terms of their function and their structure. Despite the difference between lysosomes and ribosomes, each one of them is vital for the proper functioning of a eukaryotic cell especially an animal cell. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Difference Between Lysosomes and Ribosomes?

Ans: Lysosomes are the membrane-bound cell organelles present mostly in a eukaryotic animal cell where they function as the waste disposal system as they degrade various biomolecules with the help of hydrolytic enzymes. Whereas ribosomes are the protein manufacturing macromolecular machinery of the cell that carries out the protein synthesis from the messenger RNA and is therefore known as translational apparatus.

2. Do Ribosomes Make Lysosomes?

Ans: Ribosomes are the protein manufacturing machinery of the cell. They synthesize proteins that are utilized by various organelles of the cell. Therefore, it is safe to say that ribosomes do produce the hydrolytic proteins that are functioning inside the lysosomes of the cell. But they do not produce or make the entire cell organelle - the lysosomes. Thus, the lysozymes which are present in the lysosomes are made by the ribosomes but not the lysosome itself.

3. Is Ribosome Bigger than Lysosome?

Ans: The one characteristic difference between lysosomes and ribosomes is that the lysosomes are membrane-bound cell organelles whereas ribosomes are large protein complexes made up of two protein subunits. This is also reflected in the difference in the size of the lysosomes and ribosomes. The lysosomes are generally in 0.1 μm and the ribosomes are generally 20-30 nm in diameter. Hence, the ribosomes are not bigger than the lysosomes.