The atractyloside-insensitive accumulation of adenine nucleotides by rat liver mitochondria (as opposed to the exchange-diffusion catalysed by the adenine nucleotide translocase) has been measured by using the luciferin/luciferase assay as well as by measuring [14C]ATP uptake. In foetal rat liver mitochondria ATP is accumulated more rapidly than ADP, whereas AMP is not taken up. The uptake of ATP occurs against a concentration gradient, and the rate of ATP uptake is greater in foetal than in adult rat liver mitochondria. The accumulated [14C]ATP is shown to be present within the mitochondrial matrix space and is freely available to the adenine nucleotide translocase for exchange with ATP present in the external medium. The uptake is specific for ATP and ADP and is not inhibited by adenosine 5′-[beta gamma-imido] triphosphate, GTP, CTP, cyclic AMP or Pi, whereas dATP and AMP do inhibit ATP accumulation. The ATP accumulation is also inhibited by carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone, KCN and mersalyl but is insensitive to atractyloside. The ATP uptake is concentration-dependent and exhibits Michaelis-Menten kinetics. The divalent cations Mg2+ and Ca2+ greatly enhance ATP accumulation, and the presence of hexokinase inhibits the uptake of ATP by foetal rat liver mitochondria. These latter effects provide an explanation for the low adenine nucleotide content of foetal rat liver mitochondria and the rapid increase that occurs in the mitochondrial adenine nucleotide concentration in vivo immediately after birth.

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