The contractile responses to barium and the ultrastructure and ionic composition of mitochondria were studied in vascular smooth muscle. In normal rabbit portal anterior mesenteric vein (PAMV) and main pulmonary artery (MPA) smooth muscle mitochondria were frequently associated with the surface vesicles. The average distance between the outer mitochondrial and inner surface vesicle membrane was 4–5 nm. Ba contractures of MPA were tonic and of PAMV were phasic. Incubation of MPA and PAMV with Ba resulted in the accumulation of mitochondrial granules, followed in the MPA by massive mitochondrial swelling. Oligomycin and anoxia inhibited the appearance of mitochondrial electron-opaque granules and prevented the Ba-induced mitochondrial swelling in the MPA. Electron probe analysis of mitochondria in PAMV incubated with Ba and containing granules showed characteristic Ba signals over the mitochondria. Electron probe X-ray microanalysis also showed a highly significant (P < 0.001) correlation of P with mitochondrial Ba, in an estimated elemental ratio of approximately 3 Ba/4 P. Mitochondrial granules were still prominent after block staining of the osmium-fixed, Ba-loaded PAMV, but electron probe microanalysis showed no Ba, but only U, emissions. Tissues incubated with strontium had electron-opaque mitochondrial granules and deposits in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. X-ray microanalysis of mitochondria containing granules showed the presence of characteristic Sr and Ca emissions. The presence of Sr was similarly verified in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. These findings indicate the energy dependent uptake of divalent cations, in association with phosphate, by mitochondria in vascular smooth muscle in situ and the possibility that mitochondria may contribute to the regulation of intracellular divalent cation levels in smooth muscle.

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