The structure of the endoplasmic reticulum, plasma membrane, mitochondria, and Golgi apparatus of the liver parenchymal cell is strikingly altered within 1 hour following the administration of a single oral dose of carbon tetrachloride to rats. Progressive loss of glucose-6-phosphatase activity accompanies dispersal of the ergastoplasm. Electron microscopy reveals that these changes are associated with vacuolization of the cisternae of the granular endoplasmic reticulum, degranulation of its membranes, and the appearance of increased number of free ribosomes in the adjacent cytoplasmic matrix. Concomitantly, calcium enters the liver parenchymal cell and is sequestered by mitochondria. First increased at 30 minutes, calcium content is maximal at 1 hour and returns to normal at 2 hours. Although succinic and glutamic dehydrogenase activity patterns within the liver lobule are unaffected, liver cell mitochondria enlarge and some appear to fuse or assume cup-like configurations. Microvilli lining the space of Disse become irregularly indistinct and increasingly pleomorphic by 30 minutes when the plasma membrane becomes increasingly permeable to calcium. Golgi vesicles swell and discharge their granules during the period of poisoning studied. Although all the changes observed may be the result of direct interaction of carbon tetrachloride with the membranes of the cytoplasmic constituents of the liver parenchymal cell, the possibility that the irreversible changes observed in the granular endoplasmic reticulum may be due to the chemical interaction between the poison and this system is discussed.

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