Liver mitochondria isolated in 0.44 M sucrose from rats deficient in essential fatty acids (EFA) oxidized citrate, succinate, α-ketoglutarate, glutamate, and pyruvate at a faster rate than did mitochondria isolated from normal rats; however, the oxidation of malate, caprylate, and ß-hydroxybutyrate was not significantly increased. The mitochondria from deficient rats exhibited an increased ATPase activity and extensive structural damage as revealed by electron microscope examination of thin sections. An increase in citrate oxidation and ATPase activity, together with some structural damage, could be demonstrated as early as the 4th week in rats on a fat-free diet. Saturated fat in the diet did not prevent the change in mitochondrial structure but accelerated its appearance. Both the biochemical and structural defects could be reversed within three weeks after feeding deficient rats a source of EFA. In the presence of a phosphate acceptor the effect of EFA deficiency on substrate oxidation was largely eliminated. A trend toward a reduced efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation was noted in mitochondria from EFA-deficient rats, but significant uncoupling was found only in the case of citrate, ß-hydroxybutyrate, and glutamate in the presence of malonate. Together with the increased ATPase activity, the uncoupling of phosphorylation could account for the poor respiratory control found with the deficient preparation. However, EFA deficiency was without effect on the respiration of liver slices, which supports the belief that the observed changes in oxidation and phosphorylation are an artifact resulting from damage sustained by the deficient mitochondria during their isolation.

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