The regulation of the intracelluar pH (pHi) during spreading of human neutrophils was studied by a combination of fluorescence imaging and video microscopy. Spreading on adhesive substrates caused a rapid and sustained cytosolic alkalinization. This pHi increase was prevented by the omission of external Na+, suggesting that it results from the activation of Na+/H+ exchange. Spreading-induced alkalinization was also precluded by the compound HOE 694 at concentrations that selectively block the NHE-1 isoform of the Na+H+ antiporter. Inhibition of Na+/H+ exchange by either procedure unmasked a sizable cytosolic acidification upon spreading, indicative of intracellular acid production. The excess acid generation was caused, at least in part, by the activation of the respiratory burst, since the acidification closely correlated with superoxide production, measured in single spreading neutrophils with dihydrorhodamine-123, and little acid production was observed in the presence of diphenylene iodonium, a blocker of the NADPH oxidase. Moreover, neutrophils from chronic granulomatous disease patients, which do not produce superoxide, failed to acidify. Comparable pHi changes were observed when beta 2 integrins were selectively activated during spreading on surfaces coated with anti-CD18 antibodies. When integrin engagement was precluded by pretreatment with soluble anti-CD18 antibody, the pHi changes associated with spreading on fibrinogen were markedly reduced. Inhibition of microfilament assembly with cytochalasin D precluded spreading and concomitantly abolished superoxide production and the associated pHi changes, indicating that cytoskeletal reorganization and/or an increase in the number of adherence receptors engaged are required for the responses. Neutrophils spread normally when the oxidase was blocked or when pHi was clamped near physiological values with nigericin. Spreading, however, was strongly inhibited when pHi was clamped at acidic values. Our results indicate that neutrophils release superoxide upon spreading, generating a burst of intracellular acid production. The concomitant activation of the Na+/H+ antiport not only prevents the deleterious effects of the acid released by the NADPH oxidase, but induces a net cytosolic alkalinization. Since several functions of neutrophils are inhibited at an acidic pHi, the coordinated activation of pHi regulatory mechanisms along with the oxidase is essential for sustained microbicidal activity.

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