Controversy has recently developed over the surface distribution of Na+,K+-ATPase in hepatic parenchymal cells. We have reexamined this issue using several independent techniques. A monoclonal antibody specific for the endodomain of alpha-subunit was used to examine Na+,K+-ATPase distribution at the light and electron microscope levels. When cryostat sections of rat liver were incubated with the monoclonal antibody, followed by either rhodamine or horseradish peroxidase-conjugated goat anti-mouse secondary, fluorescent staining or horseradish peroxidase reaction product was observed at the basolateral surfaces of hepatocytes from the space of Disse to the tight junctions bordering bile canaliculi. No labeling of the canalicular plasma membrane was detected. In contrast, when hepatocytes were dissociated by collagenase digestion, Na+,K+-ATPase alpha-subunit was localized to the entire plasma membrane. Na+,K+-ATPase was quantitated in isolated rat liver plasma membrane fractions by Western blots using a polyclonal antibody against Na+,K+-ATPase alpha-subunit. Plasma membranes from the basolateral domain of hepatocytes possessed essentially all of the cell's estimated Na+,K+-ATPase catalytic activity and contained a 96-kD alpha-subunit band. Canalicular plasma membrane fractions, defined by their enrichment in alkaline phosphatase, 5' nucleotidase, gamma-glutamyl transferase, and leucine aminopeptidase had no detectable Na+,K+-ATPase activity and no alpha-subunit band could be detected in Western blots of these fractions. We conclude that Na+,K+-ATPase is limited to the sinusoidal and lateral domains of hepatocyte plasma membrane in intact liver. This basolateral distribution is consistent with its topology in other ion-transporting epithelia.

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