An investigation was made of the influence of mitochondrial unsaturated fatty acid composition on the following mitochondrial parameters: oscillation period, spin label motion (ESR), permeability, and oxidative phosphorylation. Liver mitochondria from rats fed diets deficient in or supplemented with essential fatty acids showed approximately the same total number of unsaturated fatty acids but changed unsaturation levels. Electron microscopy showed that the morphology of the inner membrane compartment was unchanged. Two differences were correlated with unsaturated fatty acid composition: (1) a slower frequency (or time period) of the oscillatory state of energy-dependent ion transport and (2) a reduction in the motional freedom of each of three spin labels (12NS, 5N10 and 7N14). The increase in oscillation period could arise from a number of rate-limiting processes, including permeability of mitochondria to various anions, cations, and substrate metabolites. However, when the permeability of mitochondria to such substances was tested, no changes were observed in passive or active uptake of these substances or in the efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation under steady-state conditions. Thus, the two parameters, oscillation period and freedom of spin label motion, which are dependent upon large domains of the mitochondrial membranes, are significantly influenced by the change in unsaturated fatty acid composition in essential fatty acid-depleted mitochondria, even though processes such as permeability of ionic materials and oxidative phosphorylation were not measurably affected by these changes in unsaturated fatty acid composition. © 1972.
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