Cell Biology

Chloroplasts Definition, Characteristics, Structure, Location, Functions, and Diagram

The term "chloroplast" is derived of the Greek words chloros, which translates to green and also plastes which refers to "the one...

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Chloroplasts Definition, Characteristics, Structure, Location, Functions, and Diagram
Chloroplasts Definition, Characteristics, Structure, Location, Functions, and Diagram

Definition of Chloroplasts 

The term “chloroplast” is derived of the Greek words chloros, which translates to green and also plastes which refers to “the one who forms”. Chloroplasts are membrane-bound plastids which have membranes that are embedded in a liquid matrix. They also contain the pigment that is a photosynthetic one called chlorophyll. This pigment provides a green-colored color to plant tissues and helps to absorb the energy of light. Chloroplasts can be seen in the cells of mesophyll found in leaves of plants. The average is 30-40 per mesophyll cell.

Discovery of Chloroplasts 

The first formal description of the chloroplast (Chlorophyllkornen, “grain of chlorophyll”) was provided by Hugo von Mohl in 1837 as separate bodies inside the cell of green plants. In 1883 Andreas Franz Wilhelm Schimper identified the bodies “chloroplastids” (Chloroplastiden). The year 1884 saw Eduard Strasburger adopted the term “chloroplasts” (Chloroplasten).

Characteristics of chloroplasts

Chloroplasts are an example of a or plastid. It is a round, oval or disk-shaped body involved in the production and storage of food products. Chloroplasts differ in comparison to other types of plastids because of their green color that is due to their presence in two different pigments: chlorophyll A and chlorophyll B. The function of these pigments is that they absorb energy from light in the photosynthesis process. 

Other pigments, like carotenoids are also found in chloroplasts. They serve as supplementary pigments, capturing sunlight and transferring the energy to chlorophyll. Chloroplasts are found in plant tissues. They are found in all green tissues but they are concentrated in parenchyma cells within mesophyll of the leaf.

Chloroplasts range from 1-2 mm (1 millimeter equals 0.001 millimeters) thick and about 5-7 millimeters in diameter. They are enclosed within the chloroplast envelope. It is composed of two membranes, with both layers, with an intermembrane space. An internal membrane which is extremely folded and distinguished by the existence in closed disks (or thylakoids) are called the thylakoid layer. 

In the majority of higher plants the thylakoids are placed in tight stacks, referred to as the grana (singular the granum). Grana are linked via stromal lamellae or extensions that connect one granum through the stroma and into another granum. The thylakoid stroma surrounds an aqueous central region, called the thylakoid lumen. The space between the outer membrane and the thin thylakoid membrane filled with stroma. It is a matrix with dissolving proteins, starch grains along with copies of the genome of the chloroplast.

Structure of Chloroplasts

Chloroplasts in higher plants are typically biconvex or planoconvex-shaped. However, in different plants chloroplasts could differ in shape, ranging from spheroid to filamentous saucer discoid, or ovoid-shaped. They can be found within mesophyll cells in leaves of plants. They are vesicular, and have the colorless center. The typical dimension of the chloroplast ranges from 4 to 6 Au in diameter, and 3 to 1-3 Au in thickness.

The chloroplast is comprised of an inner and an outer membrane that has an unfilled space between. Within the chloroplast, there are thylakoids that form a stack known as grana, as well being stroma, the thick fluid that is inside the chloroplast. The thylakoids are a source of chlorophyll, which is essential to allow the plant to undergo photosynthesis. The space that chlorophyll takes up is known as the thylakoid area.

Chloroplasts Diagram
Chloroplasts Diagram | Image Source: Wikipedia

The chloroplast has therefore the following components:

1. Envelope (Outer membrane)

It’s a semi-porous membrane, and it is permeable small molecules and ions that diffuse easily. The membrane’s outer layer isn’t permeable to larger proteins.

2. Intermembrane Space

It’s usually a small inter-membrane area of 10-20 nanometers in size and located between the outer and inner membranes in the chloroplast.

3. Inner membrane

The membrane inside the chloroplast is a border that connects to the stroma. It regulates the flow of material into and out of the chloroplast. Alongside the regulation function, fat acids, lipids and carotenoids are made within the membrane of the chloroplast’s inner.

4. Stroma

Stroma, an alkaline Aqueous Fluid that is protein-rich and is found within the membrane that surrounds the chloroplast. The space that is outside of the thylakoid is known as the Stroma. The chloroplast DNA chloroplasts ribosomes, as well as the thylakoid th grains and a variety of proteins, can be located in the stroma.

5. Thylakoid System

The thylakoid organ system is suspended within the stroma. The thylakoid system comprises composed of membranous sacs referred to as Thylakoids. The chlorophyll is present within the thylakoids and provides the spectre to allow the photosynthesis-related light reactions to occur. Thylakoids are placed in a grana-like stack. Each granum has around 10-20 Thylakoids.

6. Peripheral Reticulum

The chloroplasts in certain plants have another set of tubules membranous known as peripheral reticulum which is derived from the membrane that forms the inside that forms the outer envelope. Tiny vesicles grow from the outer membrane of the chloroplast before assembling to form tubules of the peripheral reticulum.

What is the function of chloroplasts?

  • Chloroplasts are sites for photosynthesis. It is an array of light-dependent and light-independent processes to capture solar energy and convert the energy into chemical power.
  • The components of the chloroplast play an important role in a variety of roles in the regulation of cells and also in photorespiration.
  • Chloroplasts are also involved in a variety of biochemical activities for plant cells that include the production of membrane lipids, fatty acids isoprenoids and tetrapyrroles. hormones, and starch.
  • All plant cells are involved in the plant immune response.
  • The chloroplasts, which are connected to the nucleus, cell membrane along with the ER are the most important organelles in the defense against pathogens.
  • Chloroplasts are cells that act as sensors.

Location of chloroplasts

Distribution of chloroplasts in a plant

Some cells of multicellular plants have chloroplasts. The green components of every plant have chloroplasts. The chloroplasts and more specifically, the chlorophyll inside these cells are what makes the photosynthetic elements of plants green. Plant cells that contain chloroplasts typically are parenchyma cell types, but they can also be located in collenchyma tissues. Plant cells with chloroplasts is called an achromatoma cell. A typical cell of a plant’s land contains between 10 and 100 chloroplasts.

In certain plants, such as Cacti, there are chloroplasts in the stems, but in the majority of plants, chloroplasts reside in leaves. Each square millimeter in leaf tissue could contain a half million chloroplasts. In a leaf, chloroplasts can be located in the mesophyll layer of the leaf, as well as those guard cells that make up the stomata. The mesophyll cells of palisade can have 30 to 70 chloroplasts in a single cell, while guard cells of stomatal contain just 8-15 cells in addition to less chlorophyll. Chloroplasts may also be seen inside the cells of the bundle in leaves, particularly in C4 plants, that perform the Calvin cycle within the bundle cells of their sheaths. They are usually removed from the epidermis leaves.

Distribution of chloroplasts in a plant

Movement of Chloroplast 

The chloroplasts of plant as well as algal cells are able to orient themselves to make the most of available light. When the light is dim they spread as a sheet, maximizing the surface area that can absorb light. In the presence of intense sunlight, they seek shelter by aligning vertical columns on the cell wall of the plant or turning their sides so that light hits them from the edge. This minimizes the risk of exposure and helps protect them from damage from photooxidative radiation. 

The ability to disperse chloroplasts to hide behind one another or spread out could be the reason plants of the land evolved to possess a variety of smaller chloroplasts instead of just a few large ones. Chloroplast movement is thought to be to be one of the most closely controlled stimulus-response mechanisms that can be observed in plants. Mitochondria also have been found to follow chloroplasts while they move.

In more arid plants the movement of chloroplasts is controlled by phototropins blue light photoreceptors that are responsible for phototropism in plants. In certain algae, mosses flowers, and ferns the movement of chloroplasts is influenced by red light , in addition to blue light, but long wavelengths of red interfere with the movement instead of increasing it. Blue light usually makes chloroplasts seek shelter, whereas red light is able to draw them out to increase light absorption.

Research on Vallisneria gigantea the aquatic flowering plant has revealed that chloroplasts begin moving in just five minutes after light exposure, but they initially don’t show any apparent directionality. They can be moving along microfilament tracks as well as the way that the microfilament mesh alters shape to create an intricate honeycomb around the chloroplasts following their move. been moved indicates that the microfilaments can aid in anchoring chloroplasts into the right place.

Movement of Chloroplast 

The photosynthetic machinery of chloroplasts

The thylakoid membrane is home to chlorophylls, as well as a variety of protein complexes, such as photosystems I, II as well as ATP (adenosine triphosphate) synthase, all of which are designed to produce light-dependent photosynthesis. When sunlight hits the thylakoids energy excites chlorophyll pigments leading them to release electrons. The electrons are then absorbed into the chain of electron transportation, which is a sequence of reactions that eventually results in the phosphorylation of the ADP (ADP) in the form of the energetic storage chemical ATP. Electron transport also leads to producing the reduction agent, nicotinamide the adenine dinucleotide (NADPH).

ATP as well as NADPH are utilized in the light-dependent processes (dark reaction) of photosynthesis, during which water and carbon dioxide are transformed in organic compound. The light-independent reactions of photosynthesis are carried out in the chloroplast stroma, which contains the enzyme ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (rubisco). Rubisco catalyzes the initial stage of carbon fixation within the Calvin cycle (also known as the Calvin-Benson Cycle) the principal pathway for transporting carbon in plants.

In the case of C4 plant species, both the first carbon fixation phase along with the Calvin cycle are spatially separated. Carbon fixation is accomplished through the phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) carboxylation of mesophyll-containing chloroplasts, whereas malate, the four-carbon byproduct of this process, is transferred to chloroplasts within bundle-sheath cell which is where the Calvin cycle is completed. Photosynthesis of C4 attempts to reduce losses of carbon dioxide through photorespiration. In plants that utilize crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) PEP carboxylation as well as the Calvin cycle are separated by time in chloroplasts, with the first occurring in the evening and the latter during the daytime. The CAM pathway permits plants to perform photosynthesis at a low loss of water.

Chloroplast genome and membrane transport

The genome of the chloroplast is typically circular (though linear versions have been seen) and ranges from 120 to 200 kilogramases in length. The modern genome of chloroplasts however, is considerably smaller in size. During the evolution of time, growing amounts of chloroplast genes were transferred to the genome of the nucleus of cells. This has meant that the nuclear DNA encoded proteins have become vital for the function of chloroplasts. Thus, the membrane that is the outermost of the chloroplast can be freely permeable to tiny molecules, also has transmembrane channels that allow for the entry large molecules which includes nuclear encoded proteins. Its inner membrane, however, is much more restrictive and transport is restricted to specific proteins (e.g. nuclear encoded proteins) which are designed to pass through transmembrane channels.

Chloroplast Evolution

It is believed that the Endosymbiotic theory was developed to identify the genesis of chloroplasts. Organelles like chloroplasts and mitochondria were cell structures within eukaryotic cells , which emerged due to an endosymbiosis primary that took place many millions many years ago among prokaryotic eukaryotic endosymbionts host cells. The eukaryotic cells, being the largest cell has taken in the smaller prokaryotes that were photosynthetic (e.g. cyanobacteria) which allowed them to produce photosynthetic. The prokaryotes eventually evolved and became plastids specifically chloroplasts. These early photosynthetic eukaryotes harboring prokaryotes-turned-organelles are presumed to be the early ancestors of modern plants and algae on Earth. The discovery of chloroplast cpDNA, the similarities between membranes and the binary fission process as method of reproduction provide evidence for this theory.

Chloroplasts Division

The majority of chloroplasts found in cells that are photosynthetic don’t originate directly from etioplasts, proplastids or even et. In reality the typical shoot meristematic cell is made up of just 7-20 proplastids. These proplastids divide into chloroplasts, and then divide to produce the 30 to 70 chloroplasts in mature plants that are photosynthetic. In the event that the cell splits, the division of chloroplasts will provide additional chloroplasts for divide between two cells.

In single-celled algae (single-celled), chloroplast division is the sole way that new chloroplasts can be created. There is no proplastid differentiation–when an algal cell divides, its chloroplast divides along with it, and each daughter cell receives a mature chloroplast.

Most chloroplasts in cells divide, more than a few rapidly growing chloroplasts. Chloroplasts do not have a specific S-phase, meaning that their DNA replication isn’t controlled or synchronized to that of the cells they host. The majority of the information we know about the division of chloroplasts originates from studying organisms like Arabidopsis as well as the red algae Cyanidioschyzon merolae.

The division process begins at the point that the two proteins FtsZ1 and FtsZ2 are able to form filaments and, with the aid of a protein called ARC6 create a structure known as Z-rings in the chloroplast’s stroma. The Min system is responsible for the positioning of the Z-ring, making sure that the chloroplast gets cleaved in a more or less uniform manner. MinD is a protein. MinD stops FtsZ from linking and making filaments. Another protein , ARC3, may be involved, however it’s not fully identified. These proteins function at the poles of chloroplast and prevent the formation of Z-rings in the area, but at the central part of the chloroplast MinE hinders them, and allows Z-rings to develop.

Then, two plastid-dividing rings or PD rings are formed. The plastid-dividing ring inside is situated on the inner portion of the chloroplast’s internal membrane and is created first. The outer plastid-dividing ring can be situated around the outside of the chloroplast membrane. It is made up of filaments that measure 5 nanometers wide, laid out into rows 6.4 nanometers apart. It shrinks as it squeezes the chloroplast. This is when the constriction of the chloroplast starts.

In some species, such as Cyanidioschyzon merolae and Cyanidioschyzon, the chloroplasts are equipped with an additional plastid-diverging ring in the chloroplast’s intramembrane space.

In the final phase of constriction the dynamin proteins form a ring around the plastid-dividing ring that is outside and help to push the chloroplast. In the meantime, the Z-ring as well as the inner plastid-dividing rings are broken down. In this phase there is a break in the chloroplast DNA plasmids that are floating in the stroma get separated and dispersed to the two chloroplasts that form daughter chloroplasts.

The dynamins then move through the plastid’s outer rings, and into directly contact with the chloroplast’s exterior membrane, and thereby cleave the chloroplast into two daughter chloroplasts.

A small portion of the plastid’s outer division ring remains suspended in between two chloroplasts of the daughter and a speck of the dynamin rings remains connected to one of the daughter chloroplasts.

Of the six or five rings involved in chloroplast division only the plastid-dividing outer rings is present during the entire division and constriction phase. While the Z-ring first forms the constriction process does not start until the plastid-dividing ring that surrounds it is formed.

Chloroplasts Division
Chloroplasts Division | Image Source: Wikipedia


Q1. do animal cells have chloroplasts? are chloroplasts found in animal cells?

No, because animals are heterotrophic , they cannot prepare their own food. They directly or indirectly depend on plant for food.

Q2. what do chloroplasts do?

Chloroplasts are plant cell organelles that convert light energy into relatively stable chemical energy via the photosynthetic process.

Q3. which of the following are common traits of chloroplasts and mitochondria?

a. Both are surrounded by a single membrane.
b. Both reproduce by meiosis.
c. Both have their own DNA.
d. Both are found in plant and animal cells.
e. Proteins for both are synthesized on ribosomes in the rough ER.

Ans: c. Both have their own DNA.


Both chloroplast and mitochondria are semi-autonomous organelles which means that they both have their own DNA. Both of these organelles have a circular DNA and make some of their own proteins by themselves. Both are double membrane-bound organelles. Chloroplast has a third membrane system called thylakoid.

Chloroplasts are found in the plant cells only as they are the site for photosynthesis. Mitochondria are present in both plant and animal cells and are the site for cellular respiration to produce energy to support the vital functions of cells.

Q4. where are chloroplasts found?

Chloroplasts are present in the cells of all green tissues of plants and algae. Chloroplasts are also found in photosynthetic tissues that do not appear green, such as the brown blades of giant kelp or the red leaves of certain plants. In plants, chloroplasts are concentrated particularly in the parenchyma cells of the leaf mesophyll (the internal cell layers of a leaf).

Q5. do chloroplasts have dna?

Each chloroplast contains a single DNA molecule present in multiple copies. The number of copies varies between species; however, the pea chloroplasts from mature leaves normally contain about 14 copies of the genome. There can be in excess of 200 copies of the genome per chloroplast in very young leaves.

Q6. why are chloroplasts green?

Chloroplasts are green because they contain the pigment chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll occurs in several distinct forms. Chlorophylls a and b are the major pigments found in higher plants and green algae.

Q7. which statements are true for chloroplasts? select the three that apply.?

  • they are the sites of reactions that convert chemical energy from food molecules to atp.
  • they have membranous sacs called thylakoids that are surrounded by a fluid called stroma.
  • their matrix contains enzymes that function in cellular respiration.
  • they are the sites of reactions that convert solar energy into chemical energy.
  • their inner membrane has infoldings called cristae.
  • they contain the green pigment chlorophyll?


They are the sites of reactions that convert solar energy into chemical energy.
-They contain the green pigment chlorophyll.
-They have membranous sacs called thylakoids that are surrounded by a fluid called stroma.Explanation; -Chloroplasts are organelles found in plant cells, that work to convert light energy of the Sun into sugars that can be used by cells. The entire process is called photosynthesis and it all depends on the little green chlorophyll molecules in each chloroplast.-The chloroplasts have inner and outer membrane with an empty intermediate space in between. Inside the chloroplast are stacks of thylakoids, called grana, as well as stroma, the dense fluid inside of the chloroplast. Thylakoids contain the chlorophyll, which is a green pigment that is necessary for the plant to go through photosynthesis.

Q8. photosynthesis is to chloroplasts as cellular respiration is to

a.chloroplasts b. glucose c. mitochondria d. lactic acid

Ans: mitochondria

Q9. do prokaryotes have chloroplasts?

Prokaryotic cells have no chloroplasts or mitochondria. Despite this, many of them can do aerobic respiration of the same type that mitochondria do. Some can do photosynthesis the way chloroplasts do.

Q10. do fungi have chloroplasts?

Fungi are multicellular,with a cell wall, organelles including a nucleus, but no chloroplasts.

Q11. what does the chemiosmotic process in chloroplasts involve?

The chemiosmotic process in chloroplasts involves a proton gradient across the thylakoid membrane.

Q12. what is the likely origin of chloroplasts?

Q13. do cyanobacteria have chloroplasts?

Cyanobacteria contain only one form of chlorophyll, chlorophyll a, a green pigment.

Q14. how are mitochondria and chloroplasts similar?

Both chloroplasts and mitochondria are semi-autonomous organelles having their own DNA and protein-synthesizing mechanisms. Both of them help in the cytoplasmic inheritance of certain specific characters and both depend on nuclear genes for biosynthetic activities.

Q15. what observation led researchers to propose that chloroplasts evolved from cyanobacteria?

A) Both produce proteins.

B) Both contain mitochondria.

C) Both provide structure to cells.

D) Both perform photosynthesis.

Ans: (D) Both perform photosynthesis is the observation that led researchers to propose that chloroplasts evolved from cyanobacteria.

Q16. both mitochondria and chloroplasts _____.

a. use an H+ gradient to produce ATP

b. obtain electrons from water

c. release oxygen as a by-product

d. reduce NAD+, forming NADP

Ans: a. use an H+ gradient to produce ATP

Q17. do bacteria have chloroplasts?

Bacteria do not have chloroplast, but some bacteria are photoautotrophic in nature and performs photosynthesis.

Q18. Do chloroplasts have DNA?

Unlike most other organelles, chloroplasts and mitochondria have small circular chromosomes known as extranuclear DNA. Chloroplast DNA contains genes that are involved with aspects of photosynthesis and other chloroplast activities. It is thought that both chloroplasts and mitochondria are descended from free-living cyanobacteria, which could explain why they possess DNA that is distinct from the rest of the cell.

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