1. The hepatic organelle pathology of 12 patients with Gilbert's syndrome was studied by analytical subcellular fractionation in combination with enzymic microanalysis of liver biopsy material.
2. All patients showed increased activities of the endoplasmic reticulum marker enzyme, neutral α-glucosidase. Seven patients showed a decrease in the modal density of the endoplasmic reticulum, from 1·20 to 1·15 g/ml. These patients also showed striking hypertrophy of the hepatocyte smooth endoplasmic reticulum on electron microscopy. The remaining five patients showed normal endoplasmic reticulum density distribution with a peak at 1·20 g/ml, and had normal appearance of the endoplasmic reticulum on electron microscopy.
3. All patients showed increased activity of three lysosomal marker enzymes: N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase, acid phosphatase and β-glucuronidase. The distribution of these enzymes in the sucrose gradients showed less enzyme in the high-density region of the gradients, indicating a reduced equilibrium density of the lysosomes. Assays of latent and sedimentable N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase, a measure of lysosomal integrity, were normal.
4. Marker enzyme activities and density gradient distribution of other organelles, including plasma membrane (5′-nucleotidase), mitochondria (malate dehydrogenase), biliary canaliculi (γ-glutamyl transferase) and cytosol (lactate dehydrogenase) were normal. Increased catalase activities were noted.