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Intracellular Diffusion Gradients Of O2 And ATP

D. P. Jones

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Endogenous enzymes with different subcellular localizations provide in situ probes to study O2 and ATP concentration at various sites within cells. Results from this approach indicate that substantial intracellular concentration gradients occur under some O2- and ATP-limited conditions. These studies, along with electron microscopic analyses and mathematical modeling, indicate that clustering and distribution of mitochondria are major factors in determining the magnitude and location of the concentration gradients. The mitochondria appear to be clustered in sites of high ATP demand to maximize ATP supply under conditions of limited production. The size of such clusters is limited by the magnitude of the O2 gradient needed to provide adequate O2 concentrations for mitochondrial function within the clusters. Thus microheterogeneity of metabolite concentrations can occur in cells without membranal compartmentation and may be important in determining the rates of various high-flux processes.