Exposure of HeLa and L cells to chloramphenicol causes a progressive dose-dependent decrease in cytochrome oxidase and succinate-cytochrome c reductase activities, concomitant with an increase in the amount of cytochrome c. At 2–3 days, the specific activities of the enzymes have fallen to about one-half of control values; the mitochondria appear swollen. By day 5, enzyme activities are about one-quarter of control values; the mitochondria are more swollen, with disorientation and disintegration of cristae. By day 6–8, after three generations, growth has stopped, enzyme activities are approximately the same as on day 5, and cytochrome c content has reached 170% of control value. Mitochondria show severe changes, cristae being affected more than peripheral inner membrane. The number of profiles continues to be nearly normal. After 30 days, cytochrome oxidase activity remains low but now there are mitochondria in intermediate and condensed configuration. There is a gradual accumulation in the cytoplasm of smooth membrane elements. If chloramphenicol is removed, cells recover. Ethidium bromide treatment for up to 8 days yields results virtually identical to those obtained with chloramphenicol. Cells treated with 10-4 M KCN show a decrease in cytochrome oxidase activity to about one-third of control value and an elevated amount of cytochrome c. Only a small number of mitochondria appear damaged. Autochthonous mitochondrial syntheses appear to be essential for the organization of the cristae. When cytochrome oxidase activity is impaired, a regulatory mechanism for cytochrome biosynthesis geared to mitochondrial function may be lacking, resulting in an increase in cytochrome c content.

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