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J Clin Invest. 1990 Dec;86(6):1829-39.

Electrophysiological identification of alpha- and beta-intercalated cells and their distribution along the rabbit distal nephron segments.

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Department of Nephrology, Jichi Medical School, Tochigi, Japan.


By cable analysis and intracellular microelectrode impalement in the in vitro perfused renal tubule, we identified alpha- and beta-intercalated (IC) cells along the rabbit distal nephron segments, including the connecting tubule (CNT), the cortical collecting duct (CCD), and the outer medullary collecting duct in the inner stripe (OMCDi). IC cells were distinguished from collecting duct (CD) cells by a relatively low basolateral membrane potential (VB), a higher fractional apical membrane resistance, and apparent high Cl- conductances of the basolateral membrane. Two functionally different subtypes of IC cells in the CCD were identified based on different responses of VB upon reduction of the perfusate Cl- from 120 to 12 mM: the basolateral membrane of beta-IC cells was hyperpolarized, whereas that of alpha-IC cells was unchanged. This is in accord with the hypothesis that the apical membrane of beta-IC cells contains some Cl(-)-dependent entry processes, possibly a Cl-/HCO3- exchanger. Further characterization of electrical properties of both subtypes of IC cells were performed upon lowering bath or perfusate Cl- from 120 to 12 mM, and raising bath or perfusate K+ from 5 to 50 mM. A 10-fold increase in the perfusate K+ had no effect on VB in both subtypes of IC cells. Upon abrupt changes in Cl- or K+ concentration in the bath, a large or a small depolarization of the basolateral membrane, respectively, was observed in both subtypes of IC cells. The electrical properties of alpha- and beta-IC cells were similar among the distal nephron segments, but their distribution was different: in the CNT, which consists of IC cells and CNT cells, 97.3% (36/37) of IC cells were of the beta type. In the CCD, which consists of IC cells and CD cells, 79.8% (79/99) of IC cells were of the beta-type, whereas in the OMCDi 100% (19/19) were of the alpha type, suggesting that the beta type predominates in the earlier and the alpha type in the later segment.

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