Rat dermal fibroblasts were grown as monolayers, and changes in the fine structure of the cells that occurred during 12 hr incubation in a medium containing protein and excess of retinol (vitamin A alcohol) were studied by electron microscopy.
There is little change during the first 6 hr, although some of the nuclei have highly convoluted membranes. During the subsequent 3 hr, there is some disorganization of the mitochondrial cristae; the cisternae of the rough-surfaced endoplasmic reticulum diminish in number; and the amount of smooth membranous material and free ribosomes increases. There is a rapid decline in the respiratory activity of the cells after 6 hr exposure to the vitamin. It is concluded that the primary action of excess of retinol is to cause alterations in the membranes of the cells and that these alterations affect the functions of the mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum.