Rat liver, liver homogenates, and microsome fractions separated therefrom were examined systematically in the electron microscope in sections of OsO4-fixed, methacrylate-embedded tissue and pellets.
It was found that most microsomes are morphologically identical with the rough surfaced elements of the endoplasmic reticula of hepatic cells. They appear as isolated, membrane-bound vesicles, tubules, and cisternae which contain an apparently homogeneous material of noticeable density, and bear small, dense particles (100 to 150 A) attached to their outer aspect. In solutions of various osmolar concentrations they behave like osmometers. The findings suggest that they derive from the endoplasmic reticulum by a generalized pinching-off process rather than by mechanical fragmentation.
The microsome fractions contain in addition relatively few vesicles free of attached particles, probably derived from the smooth surfaced parts of the endoplasmic reticula. Dense, peribiliary bodies represent a minor component of the same fractions.
The microsomes derived from 1 gm. wet weight liver pulp contained (averages of 10 experiments) 3.09 mg. protein N, 3.46 mg. RNA (RNA/protein N = 1.12), and 487 µg. phospholipide P. They displayed DPNH-cytochrome c reductase activity and contained an alcohol-soluble hemochromogen.
The microsome preparations proved resistant to washing and "aging." Treatment with versene and incubation with ribonuclease (30 minutes at 37°C.) resulted in appreciable losses of RNA and in partial or total disappearance of attached particles.
Treatment with deoxycholate (0.3 to 0.5 per cent, pH = 7.5) induced a partial clarification of the microsome suspensions which, upon centrifugation, yielded a small pellet of conglomerated small, dense particles (100 to 150 A) with only occasionally interspersed vesicles. The pellet contained ∼80 to 90 per cent of the RNA and ∼20 per cent of the protein N of the original microsomes. The supernatant accounted satisfactorily for the materials lost during deoxycholate treatment.
The findings suggest that the microsomal RNA is associated with the small particles whereas most of the protein and nearly all of the phospholipide, hemochromogen, and DPNH-cytochrome c reductase activity are associated with the membrane or content of the microsomes.