Smooth endoplasmic reticulum is found in a variety of cell types and it
serves different functions in each. It consists of tubules and vesicles that branch
forming a network. In some cells there are dilated areas like the sacs of rough
endoplasmic reticulum. The network of smooth endoplasmic reticulum allows increased
surface area for the action or storage of key enzymes and the products of these enzymes.
In the case of smooth endoplasmic reticulum in muscle cells, the vesicles and tubules
serve as a store of calcium which is released as one step in the contraction process.
Calcium pumps serve to move the calcium.
This electron micrograph shows an area of smooth endoplasmic reticulum consisting of tortuous tubules and vesicles. This field is from a liver cell. The smooth endoplasmic reticulum serves to metabolize glycogen (which are deposited as black rosettes over the area), and it contains enzymes needed to detoxify drugs.
In adrenal cortical cells (as well as steroid producing cells in the gonads), the
smooth endoplasmic reticulum serves to metabolize the steroids and produced the final
steroid hormone. After the side chain of cholesterol is cleaved in the mitochondria, the
product is passed to the smooth endoplasmic reticulum and further modified. Then, it is
passed back to mitochondria for final modifications. Thus, the two organelles play a sort
of "steroid volleyball" to produce the steroid hormone.
For more information, contact:
Gwen Childs, Ph.D.,FAAA
Professor and Chair
Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Little Rock, AR 72205
For questions, contact this email address: