There have been several reports describing paracrystalline arrays in the intermembrane space of mitochondria. On closer inspection these structures appear to be junctions of two adjoining membranes. There are two types. They can be formed between the outer and inner mitochondrial membranes (designated outer-inner membrane junctions) or between two cristal membranes (intercristal membrane junctions). In rat heart, adjoining membranes appeared associated via a central dense midline approximately 30 Å wide. In rat kidney, the junction had a ladder-like appearance with electron-dense "bridges" approximately 80 Å wide, spaced 130 Å apart, connecting the adjoining membranes. We have investigated the conditions which favor the visualization of such structures in mitochondria. Heart mitochondria isolated rapidly from fresh tissue (within 30 min of death) contain membrane junctions in approximately 10–15% of the cross sections. This would indicate that the percentage of membrane junctions in the entire mitochondrion is far greater. Mitochondria isolated from heart tissue which was stored for 1 h at 0°–4°C showed an increased number of membrane junctions, so that 80% of the mitochondrial cross sections show membrane junctions. No membrane junctions are observed in mitochondria in rapidly fixed fresh tissue or in mitochondria isolated from tissue disrupted in fixative. Thus, the visualization of junctions in the intermembrane space of mitochondria appears to be dependent upon the storage of tissue after death. Membrane junctions can also be observed in mitochondria from other stored tissues such as skeletal muscle, kidney, and interstitial cells from large and small intestine. In each case, no such junctions are observed in these tissues when they are fixed immediately after removal from the animal. It would appear that most studies in the literature in which isolated mitochondria from tissues such as heart or kidney were used were carried out on mitochondria which contained membrane junctions. The presence of such structures does not significantly affect normal mitochondrial function in terms of respiratory control and oxidative phosphorylation.

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