The effects of proteolytic enzymes, ribonuclease, and deoxyribonuclease upon a fibrous component of chick embryo mitochondria, which was previously shown to have many fixation and staining properties characteristic of the bacterial nucleoplasm, are reported. Pepsin digestion of formaldehyde-fixed tissues removed the membranes and matrices of mitochondria, but a pepsin-resistant fibrous material remained which was heavily stained by uranyl and lead ions. Experiments on a DNA "model system" showed that DNA treated with osmium tetroxide can be depolymerized by deoxyribonuclease. Zinc ions strongly inhibited the depolymerization of DNA. Digestion of osmium tetroxide-fixed tissues (fixed only briefly) with deoxyribonuclease for 1 hour greatly reduced the Feulgen staining of the nuclei, and after 4 hours the Feulgen reaction was completely abolished. The reduction and the disappearance of the Feulgen reaction in nuclei was paralleled by partial to complete digestion of the mitochondrial fibers in the regions studied (after 1 and 4 hours, respectively), without any other obvious changes in cellular structures. When deoxyribonuclease was inhibited by the addition of zinc ions, the nuclear Feulgen reaction was not diminished, nor were the mitochondrial fibers removed. Buffer control incubations for deoxyribonuclease and ribonuclease did not alter the structure or staining properties of the mitochondrial fibers, nor did incubation with ribonuclease. The latter reaction digested the cytoplasmic and nucleolar ribosomes after a 4-hour incubation period, in parallel with the abolishment of toluidine blue staining. The results contribute further evidence that these mitochondria contain deoxyribonucleic acid.

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