Quantitative characterization of dense body, autophagic vacuole and acid phosphatase-bearing particle populations of rat liver have been made at 10 min intervals during the first 50 min following the intraperitoneal administration of glucagon. Beginning 10 to 20 min postinjection, increases in the number of autophagic vacuoles and in the osmotic sensitivity of acid phosphatase-bearing particles were observed, associated with a progressive disappearance of dense bodies. These changes appeared to reach a maximum 50 min after treatment. The average volume of autophagic vacuoles was found to be 440–870% greater than that of normal dense bodies during this time period. No consistent change in total acid phosphatase activity was noted. A detailed study of autophagic vacuole profile populations revealed the presence of five different types of profiles, two of which, types I and II, accounted for 76.3–94.4% of the profiles examined. Type I profiles primarily contained elements of the endoplasmic reticulum, free ribosomes, and ground cytoplasm. Type II profiles had mitochondrial profiles as their principal constituent, but endoplasmic reticulum and free ribosomes were also seen. At all time points type I profiles predominated, comprising 55–69% of the profiles found. Both profile types were bounded by single and double limiting membranes, the former being predominate. A time-dependent change in the ratio of single to double membrane-limited profiles could not be demonstrated. Morphometric parameters derived from profile size distributions indicated that the number of types I and II autophagic vacuoles increased with time, the rate being greater for the type II particle, except between 40 and 50 min. The average volume of the type II autophagic vacuole was consistently greater than that of the type I.

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