Electron microscopic studies of eukaryotic cells reveal the presence of a network or reticulum of tiny tubular structures scattered in the cytoplasm that is called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
ER divides the intracellular space into two distinct compartments
- luminal (inside ER) and
- extra luminal (cytoplasm) compartments.
The ER often shows ribosomes attached to their outer surface.
The endoplasmic reticulun bearing ribosomes on their surface is called rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER). In the absence of ribosomes they appear smooth and are called smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER).
RER is frequently observed in the cells actively involved in protein synthesis and secretion. They are extensive and continuous with the outer membrane of the nucleus. The smooth endoplasmic reticulum is the major site for synthesis of lipid. In animal cells lipid-like steroidal hormones are synthesised in SER.