A characteristic internal structure, consisting of a double-layered outer wall enclosing a matrix-filled space through which pass double-layered membranous folds, would appear to comprise as satisfactory a definition of mitochondria for electron microscopy as their intravital affinity for Janus green affords for light microscopy. Relying for identification upon this characteristic internal structure, mitochondria appear to be pleomorphic structures which vary in size, shape, complexity, and density. They are labile also in that their number may increase or decrease under controlled conditions. The possibility therefore exists that these organelles are constantly being formed and destroyed, perhaps by their participation in metabolic processes.
The problem of the origin of mitochondria is in an unsatisfactory state. New organelles unquestionably are formed in particular physiological states. The possibility that new bodies are produced by fission of ones already present does not seem adequate. On the other hand, the possible fabrication of new mitochondria out of intracellular membranes, although an attractive hypothesis, has not been adequately substantiated.