The growth and division of mitochondria during the cell cycle was investigated by a morphometric analysis of electron micrographs of synchronized HeLa cells. The ratio of total outer membrane contour length to cytoplasmic area did not vary significantly during the cell cycle, implying a continuous growth of the mitochondrial outer membrane. The mean fraction of cytoplasmic area occupied by mitochondrial profiles was likewise found to remain constant, indicating that the increase in total mitochondrial volume per cell occurs continuously during interphase, in such a way that the mitochondrial complement occupies a constant fraction( approximately 10-11(percent)) of the volume of the cytoplasm. The mean area, outer membrane contour length, and axis ratio of the mitochondrial profiles also did not vary appreciably during the cell cycle; furthermore, the close similarity of the frequency distributions of these parameters for the six experimental time-points suggested a stable mitochondrial shape distribution. The constancy of both the mean mitochondrial profile area and the number of mitochondrial profiles per unit of cytoplasmic area was interpreted to indicate the continuous division of mitochondria at the level of the cell population. Furthermore, no evidence was found for the occurrence of synchronous mitochondrial growth and division within individual cells. Thus, it appears that, in HeLa cells, there is no fixed temporal relationship between the growth and division of mitochondria and the events of the cell cycle.
A number of statistical methods were developed for the purpose of making numerical estimates of certain three-dimensional cellular and mitochondrial parameters. Mean cellular and cytoplasmic volumes were calculated for the six time-points; both exhibited a nonlinear, approx. twofold increase. A comparison of the axis ratio distributions of the mitochondrial profiles with theoretical distributions expected from random sectioning of bodies of various three-dimensional shapes allowed the derivation of an "average" mitochondrial shape. This, in turn, permitted calculations to be made which expressed the two-dimensional results in three-dimensional terms. Thus, the estimated values for the number of mitochondria per unit of cytoplasmic volume and for the mean mitochondrial volume were found to remain constant during the cell cycle, while the estimated number of mitochondria per cell increase approx. twofold in an essentially continuous manner.