The in vitro swelling action of L-thyroxine on rat liver mitochondria as examined photometrically represents an acceleration of a process which the mitochondria are already inherently capable of undergoing spontaneously, as indicated by the identical kinetic characteristics and the extent of thyroxine-induced and spontaneous swelling, the nearly identical pH dependence, and the fact that sucrose has a specific inhibitory action on both types of swelling. However, thyroxine does not appear to be a "catalyst" or coenzyme since it does not decrease the temperature coefficient of spontaneous swelling. The temperature coefficient is very high, approximately 6.0 near 20°.
Aging of mitochondria at 0° causes loss of thyroxine sensitivity which correlates closely with the loss of bound DPN from the mitochondria, but not with loss of activity of the respiratory chain or with the efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation. Tests with various respiratory chain inhibitors showed that the oxidation state of bound DPN may be a major determinant of thyroxine sensitivity; the oxidation state of the other respiratory carriers does not appear to influence sensitivity to thyroxine. These facts and other considerations suggest that a bound form of mitochondrial DPN is the "target" of the action of thyroxine.
The thyroxine-induced swelling is not reversed by increasing the osmolar concentration of external sucrose, but can be "passively" or osmotically reversed by adding the high-particle weight solute polyvinylpyrrolidone. The mitochondrial membrane becomes more permeable to sucrose during the swelling reaction. On the other hand, thyroxine-induced swelling can be "actively" reversed by ATP in a medium of 0.15 M KCl or NaCl but not in a 0.30 M sucrose medium. The action of ATP is specific; ADP, Mn++, and ethylenediaminetetraacetate are not active. It is concluded that sucrose is an inhibitor of the enzymatic relationship between oxidative phosphorylation and the contractility and permeability properties of the mitochondrial membrane.
Occurrence of different types of mitochondrial swelling, the intracellular factors affecting the swelling and shrinking of mitochondria, as well as the physiological significance of thyroxine-induced swelling are discussed.