The concentrations of the inner mitochondrial membrane markers cardiolipin and cytochrome alpha have been measured in liver homogenates and in purified mitochondria after thyroxine administration to thyroidectomized and normal rats. The biochemical results have been correlated with stereological electron micrographic analyses of hepatocytes in liver sections, and of isolated mitochondrial pellets. There were progressive and parallel increases in homogenate and mitochondrial cardiolipin concentration, and in mitochondrial cytochrome alpha concentration, after administration of 20 microgram of thyroxine on alternate days to thyroidectomized rats, and of 300 microgram on alternate days to normal rats. Electron microscope measurements showed marked differences in the shape of the mitochondria and in the number of cristae in different thyroid states. Hypothyroid mitochondria were shorter and wider than controls, and hyperthyroid mitochondria longer but of similar width. Mitochondrial volume per unit cell volume was virtually unchanged in hypo- and hyperthyroid animals. The most striking changes were a decrease in the area of the inner membrane plus cristae in thyroidectomized rats, and a substantial increase in membrane area after thyroxine administration. The biochemical and electron micrographic results indicate that, in rat liver, thyroid hormone administration leads to a selective increase in the relative amount of mitochondrial inner membranes, with little or no change in the mitochondrial volume per unit cell volume, or in total mitochondrial protein per unit total cell protein.

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