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Biochem J. 1994 Sep 15;302 ( Pt 3):745-51.

86Rb is not a reliable tracer for potassium in skeletal muscle.

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  • 1Institute of Physiology, University of Aarhus, Denmark.


For technical reasons, 86Rb is frequently preferred to 42K as a tracer for K+. Systematic comparisons of the two isotopes, however, are rarely done. In this paper we compare the transport of 42K and 86Rb in rat and mouse soleus muscle and in rat erythrocytes. Ouabain-suppressible K+ uptake in rat soleus was the same whether measured with 42K or 86Rb, both when stimulated by insulin, salbutamol and calcitonin-gene-related peptide (CGRP), and when inhibited by graded concentrations of ouabain. Control experiments with rat erythrocytes, where Na(+)-K(+)-Cl- co-transport has earlier been demonstrated, showed closely similar inhibitory effects of bumetanide on 42K and 86Rb uptake. In contrast, bumetanide produced no significant change in 42K uptake of rat and mouse soleus muscle, but clearly inhibited 86Rb uptake at concentrations down to 10(-7) M (P < 0.001). Whereas the addition of 150 mM NaCl had no effect on 42K uptake in rat soleus, 86Rb uptake, and in particular the bumetanide-suppressible component, was markedly increased by this addition. The inhibitory effect of bumetanide on 86Rb uptake gives rise to the false impression that skeletal muscle contains a NaKCl2 co-transport system. Efflux studies showed that the fractional loss of 42K from rat soleus muscle is 2.3 times larger than that of 86Rb. Salbutamol and CGRP increased 86Rb efflux, but inhibited 42K efflux. This implies that for studies of K+ efflux and bumetanide-sensitive K+ transport, 86Rb is not even an acceptable tracer for the detection of qualitative changes. Control experiments with 42K are essential in any characterization of unknown K+ transport processes.

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