Mitochondrial movements have been followed by phase-contrast microscopy in living XTH-cells (Xenopus laevis tadpole-heart cells) in tissue culture. The same organelles have been viewed subsequently in electron micrographs. Locomotion of mitochondria proceeds at velocities up to 100 micrometer/min. Formation of branches of mitochondria and other shape changes may occur with the same speed. Mitochondrial motility can be classified into 4 types: (I) Alternating extension and contraction at the two ends of rod-shaped mitochondria. (2) Lateral branching. (3) Alternate stretching and contraction of arbitrary parts of a mitochondrion amounting to a kind of peristaltic action. (4) Transverse wave propagation along the organelle. Types I to 3 can be reduced to the same underlying principle; they cause locomotion. Formation of mitochondrial extensions is due to elongation of cristae. The observations are discussed in terms of 4 specific proposals. (I) Intracellular locomotion of mitochondria is caused by local enlargements and contractions of the organelles. (2) The shape changes are correlated with alterations in the arrangement of the cristae. (3) Such arrangements are not associated with overall swelling or shrinkage of the mitochondrion; they are local features. (4) Estimates of the time required for rearrangement of the inner compartment amount to less than 0.3 s for single crista arrangements during the fastest shape changes, and less than 1–3 s during slower alterations. This high velocity is in good accord with the hypothesis of energy conservation by conformational events during oxidative phosphorylation.

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