Cytochemical staining techniques for microbodies (peroxisomes) are limited at present to the enzymes catalase and α-hydroxy acid oxidase, and neither technique can distinguish glyoxysomes from other microbodies. Described here is a procedure using ferricyanide for the cytochemical demonstration by light and electron microscopy of malate synthase activity in glyoxysomes of cotyledons from fat-storing cucumber and sunflower seedlings. Malate synthase, a key enzyme of the glyoxylate cycle, catalyzes the condensation of acetyl CoA with glyoxylate to form malate and release free coenzyme A. Localization of the enzyme activity is based on the reduction by free CoA of ferricyanide to ferrocyanide, and the visualization of the latter as an insoluble, electron-opaque deposit of copper ferrocyanide (Hatchett's brown). The conditions and optimal concentrations for the cytochemical reaction mixture were determined in preliminary studies using a colorimetric assay developed to measure disappearance of ferricyanide at 420 nm. Ultrastructural observation of treated tissue reveals electron-opaque material deposited uniformly throughout the matrix portion of the glyoxysomes, with little background deposition elsewhere in the cell. The reaction product is easily visualized in plastic sections by phase microscopy without poststaining. Although the method has been applied thus far only to cotyledons of fat-storing seedlings, it is anticipated that the technique will be useful in localizing and studying glyoxylate cycle activity in a variety of tissues from both plants and animals.

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