Mitochondria isolated from kidneys of lead-intoxicated rats have been shown to have decreased oxidative and phosphorylative abilities. The purpose of this study was to determine whether these abnormal mitochondria would undergo ultrastructural transformation during controlled respiration in the absence of phosphate acceptor (State IV), as previously demonstrated for normal liver mitochondria. It was first shown that normal rat kidney mitochondria transforms from a condensed ultrastructural conformation to an orthodox conformation after 5 min of State IV respiration with pyruvate-malate substrate. Reversal to a condensed conformation follows stimulation of respiration with adenosine diphosphate (ADP). A large portion of kidney mitochondria from lead-poisoned rats do not change from condensed to orthodox conformation during State IV respiration. Other mitochondria do transform to the orthodox form but they rapidly degenerate. State IV respiration decreases as these few orthodox mitochondria disintegrate. The conclusion is that those mitochondria that do not undergo change in ultrastructure have impairment of electron transport, and that those that do become orthodox have increased membrane lability and undergo degeneration.

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