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J Membr Biol. 1988 Oct;105(1):1-21.

Amiloride and its analogs as tools in the study of ion transport.

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Department of Medicine, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032.


Amiloride inhibits most plasma membrane Na+ transport systems. We have reviewed the pharmacology of inhibition of these transporters by amiloride and its analogs. Thorough studies of the Na+ channel, the Na+/H+ exchanger, and the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, clearly show that appropriate modification of the structure of amiloride will generate analogs with increased affinity and specificity for a particular transport system. Introduction of hydrophobic substituents on the terminal nitrogen of the guanidino moiety enhances activity against the Na+ channel; whereas addition of hydrophobic (or hydrophilic) groups on the 5-amino moiety enhances activity against the Na+/H+ exchanger. Activity against the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger and Ca2+ channel is increased with hydrophobic substituents at either of these sites. Appropriate modification of amiloride has produced analogs that are several hundred-fold more active than amiloride against specific transporters. The availability of radioactive and photoactive amiloride analogs, anti-amiloride antibodies, and analogs coupled to support matrices should prove useful in future studies of amiloride-sensitive transport systems. The use of amiloride and its analogs in the study of ion transport requires a knowledge of the pharmacology of inhibition of transport proteins, as well as effects on enzymes, receptors, and other cellular processes, such as DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis, and cellular metabolism. One must consider whether the effects seen on various cellular processes are direct or due to a cascade of events triggered by an effect on an ion transport system.

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