Isolated renal cortical collecting tubules obtained from rabbits treated chronically with desoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA) have been found to possess elevated transepithelial potential differences and a greatly increased capacity for ion transport. Structural exmination of tubules from rabbits exposed to either DOCA or dexamethasone for 11--18 d reveals a marked increase in basolateral cell membrane area in these tubules. Morphometric analysis shows that this effect is specifically on the basolateral membrane area of only one of the two cell types found in this nephron segment. Increases of greater than 140% and 90% are found for the basolateral membrane area of the principal cells for DOCA and dexamethasone, respectively, but no change could be detected in the basolateral membrane area of the intercalated cells found in this nephron segment. No siginificant changes were found in luminal membrane area, cell number, or cell volume for either cell type. These observations demonstrate that significant changes in membrane area can occur in differentiated epithelia and suggest that this may be an important mechanism for modulating epithelial transport capacity.

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