Differentiating white adipose tissue from presumptive and developing fat pads of newborn and young rats was fixed in buffered osmium tetroxide, embedded in Vestopal W, and examined in an electron microscope. Pre-adipose cells were found to be fibroblasts characterized by their spindle shape, long tenuous cytoplasmic extensions, and profuse endoplasmic reticulum. The developmental stages traced from fibroblast to mature adipose cell show a gradual change in cell shape, an accumulation of cytoplasm and non-membrane-bounded lipid, a decrease in the endoplasmic reticulum, and a change in shape of mitochondria. Transitory glycogen appears at mid-differentiation. Numerous smooth-membraned vesicles occur in the cytoplasm throughout differentiation. Pinocytosis is constantly evident. Cells of the multilocular stage are shown to differ from brown fat cells, particularly with respect to cytoplasmic membrane systems and mitochondria. No transport of particulate lipid from the lumen of the capillary to, or within, the adipose cell was detected, nor could any cell organelle be demonstrated to be visibly related to lipid synthesis and/or deposition.

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