The chloroplast is a membrane-bound organelle within a cell that conducts photosynthesis. From the molecular perspective, the chloroplast is very large and contains millions of protein molecules along with vast sheets of membranes. If we imagine an average-sized enzyme molecule to be the size of an automobile, a chloroplast in a plant leaf cell would be about 6 kilometers on its long axis and about 2 kilometers on its short axis. The approximately cube-shaped plant cell, 15 to 20 kilometers per side, would contain fifty to one hundred of these compartments.

The chloroplast is enclosed by two membranes, designated the outer and inner membranes of the chloroplast envelope. About one-half the volume within the chloroplast is occupied by stacks of fifty to one hundred flattened sacs called thylakoids, from the Greek word meaning "like an empty pouch." The thylakoid membrane surrounds the lumen or interior space and is the major membrane of the chloroplast. Groups of thylakoids adhere into stacks called grana. The remaining soluble phase of the chloroplast, outside thylakoids, is the stroma.

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