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    STUDIA BIOLOGIA - Issue no. 1 / 2006  

  Abstract:  Male Wistar rats were maintained in our animal facility for 14-18 weeks on a normal diet, with free access to water. One group of the rats served as control (C), while in another group (A) each rat was supplemented individually with 1.5 ml of 48% ethanol/100 g body weight daily. At the end of the period, the rats were sacrificed and most of their liver used for preparation of mitochondria, on which several functional assays were performed in vitro, as previously described (Tarba and Suărăşan, 2003; 2004). A small piece of the original hepatic tissue as well as mitochondrial sediment from the incubation vessel were always prepared for electron microscopy. The electron micrographs of the hepatic tissue from control animals confirm the state of good health of our rats. Thus, the nuclei and the rest of the organelles have a normal appearance. Mitochondria observed in situ are dominated by the so-called orthodox configuration, while in vitro, the great majority of them have a condensed conformation and intact membranes. For most rats, chronic ethanol consumption has grave consequences on the hepatic and mitochondrial ultrastructure, as demonstrated by the images obtained from the A group. Thus, the cell nuclei have little chromatin and large nucleoli, with intense activity, the smooth endoplasmic reticulum is highly dilated and vesiculated, a clear peroxysome proliferation is present in cells with a reduced amount of lipids, while lipid droplets are present in cells where peroxysomes are rare. The mitochondria in situ have an irregular (polymorphous) shape and an electron transparent matrix, apparently lacking the cristae, while most of the isolated mitochondria present a condensed and ultracondensed or falciform aspect, with a rarefied central zone and a matrix condensed at the periphery. In the presence of calcium the mitochondria are swollen or even disintegrated. The ultrastructural morphology observed supports our previous functional results.  
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