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Morphological heterogeneity of HeLa cell mitochondria visualized by a modified diaminobenzidine staining technique
J.W. Posakony, J.M. England, G. Attardi


The diaminobenzidine (DAB) technique for the ultrastructural localization of sites of cytochrome c oxidase activity in animal tissues has been adapted to the visualization of mitochondria in animal cells growing in culture. The modified technique allows the staining of mitochondria in all cells in coverslip preparatins for light microscopy. Electron microscopy of thin sections of material treated by this method has revealed that all mitochondrial profiles within a cell (and only these) are stained and they exhibit a well preserved size and internal structure. Coverslip cultures of synchronized and unsynchronized HeLa (F-315) cells stained with the DAB reaction were examined under oil immersion. In the majority of the cells, mitochondria were recognized as discrete bodies in the thinner peripheral portion of the cytoplasm. This observation indicates that in a large proportion of HeLa F-315 cells, at least under the growth conditions used here, the mitochondrial complement is dividied into distinct organelles. This examination also revealed a considerable morphological heterogeneity of mitochondria, which exhibited an ovoid or short rod-like or, less frequently, long filamentous shape, with some evidence of branching. The variability in mitochondrial morphology appeared to be far more prounced between different cells than within individual cells; this cellular heterogeneity was not related in any obvious way to cell-cycle-dependent changes.