Interphase HeLa cells exposed to solutions that are 1.6 x isotonic manifest a series of morphological transformations, several of which grossly resemble those which occur when untreated cells enter prophase. These include chromosome condensation with preferential localization at the nuclear envelope and nucleolus, ruffling of the nuclear envelope, and polyribosome breakdown. The nucleolus loses its fibrous component and appears diffusely granular. At 2.8 x isotonicity the nuclear envelope is selectively dispersed although other membranes show morphological alterations also. The characteristic transitions of the lysosomes, Golgi complex, and microtubules seen in normal mitosis do not occur during hypertonic treatment. All the changes induced with hypertonic solutions are rapidly reversible, and the nucleus particularly goes through a recovery phase which bears some similarity to that of the telophase nucleus. The prophase-like condensation of the chromatin following exposure of the intact cell to hypertonic medium cannot be reproduced on an ultrastructural level in the isolated nucleus with any known variation in salt concentration, suggesting significant modifications of the nuclear contents during isolation. In addition to these morphological responses, hypertonic solutions also markedly and reversibly depress macromolecular synthesis. The polyribosome disaggregation that results from exposure to hypertonic solutions may be partially prevented by prior exposure to elevated Mg++ concentrations; this same ion is also partially effective in preventing the polyribosome breakdown which normally occurs as cells enter mitosis.

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