A technique for the rapid preparation of mitochondria from rat liver is described. Tissue fractionation is performed by a single centrifugation step with a discontinuous Percoll density gradient. Total preparation times of 5-6 min are achieved by using this method. The mitochondrial fraction obtained is relatively free of contaminating organelles, as judged by marker-enzyme activity determinations. Mitochondria isolated by Percoll-density-gradient centrifugation differ from mitochondria obtained by differential centrifugation [Taylor, Prpić, Exton & Bygrave (1980) Biochem. J. 188, 443-450] in that the former exhibit a higher acceptor control ratio and a higher calcium content. Values obtained for the protonmotive force are not significantly different between the two preparations. The technique described may be widely applicable for studies requiring the rapid preparation of functionally intact and relatively uncontaminated mitochondria.

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