In adult regenerating cardiomyocytes in culture, in contrast to fetal cells, mitochondrial creatine kinase (Mi-CK) was expressed. In the same cell, two populations of mitochondria, differing in shape, in distribution within the cell and in content of Mi-CK, could be distinguished. Immunofluorescence studies using antibodies against Mi-CK revealed a characteristic staining pattern for the two types of mitochondria: giant, mostly cylindrically shaped, and, as shown by confocal laser light microscopy, randomly distributed mitochondria exhibited a strong signal for Mi-CK, whereas small, "normal" mitochondria, localized in rows between myofibrils, gave a much weaker signal. Transmission EM of the giant mitochondria demonstrated paracrystalline inclusions located between cristae membranes. Immunogold labeling with anti-Mi-CK antibodies revealed a specific decoration of these inclusions for Mi-CK. Addition of 20 mM creatine, the substrate of Mi-CK, to the essentially creatine-free culture medium caused the disappearance of the giant cylindrically shaped mitochondria as well as of the paracrystalline inclusions, accompanied by an increase of the intracellular level of total creatine. Replacement of creatine in the medium by the creatine analogue and competitor beta-guanidinopropionic acid caused the reappearance of the enlarged mitochondria. It is believed that the accumulation of Mi-CK within the paracrystalline inclusions, similar to those observed in certain myopathies, represents a compensatory effect of the cardiomyocytes to cope with a metabolic stress situation caused by low intracellular total creatine levels.

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