Q:

What does the smooth endoplasmic reticulum do?

A:

The smooth endoplasmic reticulum, or smooth ER, performs functions in several metabolic processes, including synthesis of steroids, lipids and phospholipids, as well as the metabolism of carbohydrates, elimination of drugs from the system and attachment of receptors to cell membrane proteins. Both the smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum form an organelle in eukaryotic organisms creating a network of tubes or sacs called cisternae, but it is the smooth endoplasmic reticulum that helps the body eliminate a number of toxins.

One of the major benefits of smooth ER is its ability to turn many organic chemicals into safe products that are soluble in water. The liver cells contain a great deal of smooth ER, where it serves to remove toxins from products of natural metabolism. It also removes from the system excess ethanol, which comes from excessive consumption of alcohol, as well as barbiturates ingested by drug users. To perform these functions more efficiently, the smooth ER has the ability to double its total surface area in a matter of several days, going back to its original size after the end of the attack. Smooth ER also helps break glycogen granules on the external surface into glucose. It also produces steroid hormones within the endocrine glands and the adrenal cortex.


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