Isolated rat liver mitochondria were incubated in vitro under conditions supporting the massive accumulation of calcium and phosphate. Samples were embedded, thin sectioned, and examined in the electron microscope. The intramitochondrial distribution of insoluble or structure-bound mineral substances was studied by electron microscopy coupled with recently developed techniques of high resolution microincineration. As shown previously, the ion-loaded mitochondria acquire large, internal granules which have inherent electron opacity indicative of high mineral content. Study of ash patterns in preselected areas of sections directly confirmed the high mineral content of the granules, and the appearance of the residues was consistent with the copresence in the granules of some organic material. Other mitochondrial structures were almost devoid of mineral. Thin sections of unincubated control mitochondria also were incinerated. They were found to contain appreciable amounts of intrinsic mineral, seemingly associated with membranes. The normal, dense matrix granules commonly seen in unaltered mitochondria could be seen in intact sections of these control preparations, but after burning no definite correspondence of any ash to the granules could be demonstrated. The normal granules perhaps do not contain mineral. Heating experiments on ash patterns of all the preparations demonstrated the thermal stability and crystallizability of the ash. The crystallized ash of the in vitro-produced dense granules was tentatively shown by electron diffraction to be ß-tricalcium phosphate (whitlockite). This, together with evidence from the literature, suggests that the original, noncrystalline mineral may be a colloidal, subcrystalline precursor of calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite. Experiments were performed on synthetic calcium phosphates for comparison. Other possible applications of the microincineration techniques are briefly discussed.

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