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Leucoplasts (λευκός leukós „white“, πλαστός plastós „formed, molded“ ) are a category of plastid and as such are organelles found in plant cells. They are non-pigmented, in contrast to other plastids such as the chloroplast.
Lacking pigments, leucoplasts are not green. They are colourless, so they are predictably located in roots and non-photosynthetic tissues of plants. They may become specialized for bulk storage of starch, lipid or protein and are then known as amyloplasts, elaioplasts, or proteinoplasts [also called aleuroplast] respectively. However, in many cell types, leucoplasts do not have a major storage function and are present to provide a wide range of essential biosynthetic functions, including the synthesis of fatty acids, many amino acids, and tetrapyrrole compounds such as haem. In general, leucoplasts are much smaller than chloroplasts and have a variable morphology, often described as amoeboid. Extensive networks of stromules interconnecting leucoplasts have been observed in epidermal cells of roots, hypocotyls, and petals, and in callus and suspension culture cells of tobacco. In some cell types at certain stages of development, leucoplasts are clustered around the nucleus with stromules extending to the cell periphery, as observed for proplastids in the root meristem.
Etioplasts, which are pre-granal, immature chloroplasts but can also be chloroplasts that have been deprived of light, lack active pigment and can be considered leucoplasts. After several minutes exposure to light, etioplasts begin to transform into functioning chloroplasts and cease being leucoplasts.
- Natesan, S. K. A.; Sullivan, JA; Gray, JC (2005). "Stromules: A characteristic cell-specific feature of plastid morphology". Journal of Experimental Botany 56 (413): 787–97. doi:10.1093/jxb/eri088. PMID 15699062.