Liver mitochondrial fractions as normally isolated contain only 10-20% of total mitochondria and may not be representative of the whole mitochondrial population. This study was designed to evaluate the dependence of the sensitivity of carnitine palmitoyl-transferase I (CPT I) to malonyl-CoA inhibition in mitochondrial fractions that are not normally studied. Four fractions prepared from rat liver were found to be contaminated to different extents by microsome vesicles, on the basis of marker-enzyme activities and micrographic data. Purification of mitochondrial fractions on a Percoll gradient decreased to some extent the microsomal contamination, which was due in part to the existence of close bonds between microsomes and the outer membranes of mitochondria. A greater degree of contamination of mitochondrial fractions by microsomes was correlated with a greater sensitivity of CPT I to malonyl-CoA inhibition. Attempts were made to enhance the sensitivity of CPT I to malonyl-CoA with the use of microsomes. Measurements performed by adding mitochondria and microsomes in the same CPT I assay failed to demonstrate any significant enhancement of malonyl-CoA inhibition. However, addition of ATP to a mixture of mitochondria and microsomes was shown to trigger the binding of both particles, as assessed by enzymic and micrographic data, and to increase the sensitivity of CPT I to malonyl-CoA inhibition. These results demonstrated that the binding of microsomes to mitochondria, unlike the simple mixing of both particles, was capable of altering the sensitivity of CPT I to malonyl-CoA. The data also suggest that this process could be of physiological importance, owing to the frequency of contiguous zones between mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum observed in sections of intact liver cells.

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