Functional Separation of the Na-K Exchange Pump from the Volume Controlling Mechanism


ABSTRACT Previous publications have described a "volume controlling mechanism " in duck erythrocytes that returns both enlarged and shrunken cells to their original isotonic volume. Enlarged cells return to their original size by readjusting their K content. To study the specificity of this aspect of the mechanism for K, we prepared enlarged cells with various Na and K contents. Only cells containing a high K content resume their original size in the standard isotonic medium. The process of regulation resembles that described above. In contrast, cells containing a high Na content fail to reestablish this volume, but shrink instead until they reach a limiting minimal volume (four-fifths of normal). Here, another mechanism, the cation pump rather than the volume controlling mechanism, removes Na and is responsible for the changes in cell size. Enlarged cells with an intermediate Na and K content utilize both mechanisms to reduce their cation content. Only if Na is prevented from leaving the cell and sufficient K is present initially, will these cells reestablish their original size. These studies demonstrate that the cation pump and volume controlling mechanism function independently and, when cells enlarge, only K can effectively traverse the pathway associated with the volume controlling mechanism. This route differs from the one used by the cation pump to eject Na

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