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Exocytosis: Definition, Process and Types, Diagram with Examples

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What is Exocytosis, and How does it work?

  • Exocytosis, as contrast to endocytosis, is a process that uses energy to transfer items from the inside of the cell to the outside of the cell. As a result, it is an active transport system that is the polar opposite of endocytosis. In this technique of exocytosis, a specific vesicle bound to the cell membrane that contains the cellular particles expels the cell content to the cell’s outside.
  • This technique has been used in the removal of waste materials from cells, the transfer of hormones and proteins, chemical signalling between cells, and cell membrane formation.The Golgi bodies, endosomes, and presynaptic neurons all contribute to the formation of exocytosis vesicles. Depending on their purpose, these vesicles can merge with the cell membrane and be either complete or transient vesicles.
  • The cell membrane is normally damaged following endocytic pinocytosis and phagocytosis, and the exocytic process acts to repair the cell membrane by transferring proteins and lipids to the membrane for repair mechanisms.
  • It’s also the finish line for transporting protein complexes, packing them in their final locations, and securing them to the cell membrane.

Summary of the Exocytosis Mechanism

In summary, the mechanism of exocytosis entails:

  1. The transport of chemicals from inside the cell to the cell membrane via cell vesicles.
  2. After then, the vesicle connects to the cell membrane.
  3. The fusing of the vesicle membrane with the cell membrane permits the contents of the vesicle to be released to the outside of the cell.

The Exocytotic Vesicle

  • The Exocytotic Vesicle is a type of exocytotic vesicle that is The Golgi complexes, which are the recipients of the proteins and lipids generated in the Endoplasmic reticulum, provide protein elements to the exocytotic vesicle.
  • The Golgi complexes’ job is to sort and alter proteins, which are then stored in secretory vesicles that sprout from the Golgi apparatus’ trans face.
  • Not all vesicles that fuse with the cell membrane make contact with the Golgi apparatus; some are produced from the early endosome, a membrane sac present in the cytoplasm of the cell.By endocytosis of the cell membrane, the vesicle fuses with the early endosome, sorting the internalised materials into proteins, lipids, and microbes, and directing them to their destinations via transport vesicles. The transport vesicles bud off from the early endosome and carry proteins and lipids to the cell membrane, while waste materials are transported to the lysosomes for degradation.
  • The vesicles present on the synaptic terminals of neurons are another form of vesicle that does not come from the Golgi complexes.

Types of Exocytosis


Figure: Types of Exocytosis. Image Source: ThoughtCo

Exocytosis comes in a variety of forms.

The exocytotic process is divided into three stages.

  1. Constitutive exocytosis
  2. Regulated exocytosis
  3. Lysosome mediated exocytosis

Constructive exocytosis

  • Exocytosis involves the transport of membrane proteins and lipids to the cell membrane as well as the exocytosis of molecules from the cell to the outside. This is the most prevalent pathway that all bodily cells follow.

Regulated Exocytosis

  • Secretory cells, which store hormones, digestive enzymes, and neurotransmitters, use this technique frequently.
  • The development of secretory vesicles, which fuse with the cell membrane for a long time to allow the release of the cell contents out of the cell and into the outside, must be activated by extracellular signals.The vesicles are reconstituted and returned to the cytoplasm after delivery.
  • For the release of its content onto the cell’s outer surface, this mechanism often relies on extracellular signalling.

Exocytosis Mediated by Lysosomes

  • The fusion of cell vesicles with cell lysosomes is involved in this process. Digestive enzymes and hydrolase enzymes are found in lysosomes, and their role is to break down cellular waste products, bacteria, and debris. The lysosome transports the broken-down components to the cell membrane, where it fuses with it and releases the materials into the extracellular cell matrix.

Constructive exocytosis is the ordinary exocytotic mechanism that occurs in four steps, whereas regulatory exocytosis occurs in five steps. The steps are as follows:

  1. Vesicle trafficking – Motor proteins such as kinesins, dyneins, and myosins assist in the transport of cell vesicles to the cell membrane via the cytoskeleton’s microtubules.
  2. Tethering – When cell vesicles reach the cell membrane, they are tugged toward it and finally come into contact with one another.
  3. Docking – It is the process of attaching vesicles to the cell membrane and commencing the merging of the vesicle membrane’s phospholipids with those of the cell membrane.
  4. Priming – It is a phase that occurs during controlled exocytosis rather than constitutive exocytosis. Exocytosis is aided by changes in some cell membrane components, which aid in signaling mechanisms that initiate exocytosis.
  5. Fusing – Exocytosis is characterised by two forms of fusion: full fusion and transient (kiss-and-run) fusion. Complete fusion entails using energy (ATP) to fully fuse the vesicle membrane with the lipid cell membrane, as well as using energy to separate the vesicle and cell membranes after the cell content has been released. The vesicle temporarily fuses with the cell membrane for a length of time in transient or kiss-and-run fusion to allow the creation of the fusion pore for releasing the cell content to the outside of the cell. The vesicle then separates from the cell membrane, reforms, and returns to the cytoplasm of the cell.

Examples of Exocytosis

  • Exocytosis is demonstrated in the transfer of glucagon from the pancreas to the liver, where it is broken down into glycogen, which is then broken down further to glucose, which is easily absorbed. The glucose is then transferred further into circulatory system.
  • The secretory vesicles of the pancreas store glucagon and insulin in the Langerhans islets. When blood glucose levels are low, the islets alpha cells emit glucagon, which is transported into the liver cells by secretory vesicles and released by exocytosis for further processing and usage.
  • Exocytosis is a process through which the pancreas releases digesting enzymes.
  • Synaptic vesicle exocytosis, in which a synaptic vesicle packed with neurotransmitters in the pre-synaptic neuron fuses with the pre-synaptic membrane, releasing neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft, is another exocytotic event (the gap between neurons). The neurotransmitters can then bind to post-synaptic neuron receptors.

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