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J Membr Biol. 1987;100(2):165-82.

pH-dependent electrical properties and buffer permeability of the Necturus renal proximal tubule cell.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510.


Necturus kidneys were perfused with Tris-buffered solutions at three different pH values, i.e. 7.5, 6.0 and 9.0. A significant drop in fluid absorption occurred at pH 6.0, whereas pH 9.0 did not increase volume flow significantly. When acute unilateral, i.e. either in the lumen or the peritubular capillaries, and bilateral pH changes were elicited in both directions from 7.5 to 9.0 at a constant Tris-butyrate buffer concentration, both peritubular membrane potential difference V1 and transepithelial potential difference V3 hyperpolarized, independently of the side where the change in pH was brought about. Acid perfusions at pH 6.0 caused a similar response but of opposite sign. Analysis of the potential changes shows that pH influences not only the electromotive force and resistance of the homolateral membrane, but also the electrical properties of the paracellular path. Interference of pH with Na, Cl or K conductance was assessed. Any appreciable role for sodium or chloride was excluded, whereas the potassium transference number (tK) of the peritubular membrane increased 16% in alkaline pH. However, this increase accounts only for 19 to 36% of the observed hyperpolarization. Since changes in Tris-butyrate buffer concentration at constant pH do not affect V1 or V3 considerably, the hyperpolarization in pH 9 cannot be explained by an elevation in internal pH only, or by a Tris-H+ ion diffusion potential only. The role of the permeability of the buffers: bicarbonate, butyrate and phosphate, in determining electrical membrane parameters was evaluated. Transport numbers of the buffer anions ranked as follows: tHCO3 greater than tbutyrate greater than tphosphate. It is concluded that modulation of membrane potential by extracellular pH is mediated primarily by a change in peritubular cell membrane tK and additionally by membrane currents carried by buffer anions.

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