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Electrical properties of giant mitochondria studied with a double impalement technique

Abstract

THE electrical properties of the membrane of giant mitochondria (4–10 μm in diameter) can be studied directly with micro-electrodes. Tupper and Tedeschi1–4 have studied mitochondria isolated from Drosophila (approximately 4 μm in diameter), and found a positive potential in the range of 5–15 mV and a specific resistance in the range of 1–4 Ω cm2 (assuming no invaginations of the mitochondrial membrane). The potentials were not found to depend on metabolic state2. The microelectrodes were judged to be in the internal mitochondrial space from the fact that the potentials were osmotically sensitive (decreasing with osmotic swelling in a predictable manner). The positive potentials correlated with the distribution of carboxylic anions, which partition with a higher concentration inside the mitochondria. Furthermore, the potentials were collapsed by the addition of acetate3,4, but not chloride4 to the external medium. Presumably acetate enters and depolarises the potential. These observations further support the idea that the electrodes are in the inner mitochondrial space.

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BOWMAN, C., TEDESCHI, H. Electrical properties of giant mitochondria studied with a double impalement technique. Nature 280, 597–599 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1038/280597a0

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