The effects on cell structure of 12 hr to 6 days of exposure to erythromycin or chloramphenicol, two antibiotics known to inhibit specifically the mitochondrial protein synthesizing system, have been studied in the ciliate Paramecium aurelia. A wild type strain (sensitive to both antibiotics) and three mutant strains carrying cytoplasmically inherited mutations conferring resistance to one or the other antibiotic have been used In sensitive cells both antibiotics lead to a progressive and profound alteration of mitochondrial structure evidenced by an elongation of the organelle, a considerable decrease in the number of cristae, and the appearance of some abnormal lamellar cristae and of rigid plates of periodic structure. The modifications of cell structure, then, are mainly restricted to mitochondrial cristae. The three resistant mutants studied, on the contrary, retain normal or nearly normal mitochondrial structure in the presence of the antibiotic to which they are resistant. This fact is in good agreement with the postulated location in the mitochondrial DNA of the resistance mutations studied. The results are discussed in the light of present knowledge concerning the function of the mitochondrial protein-synthesizing system.

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