A cytochemical method for the light and electron microscope localization of the K- and Mg-dependent phosphatase component of the Na-K-ATPase complex was applied to rat kidney cortex, utilizing p-nitrophenylphosphate (NPP) as substrate. Localization of K-N-ATPase activity in kidneys fixed by perfusion with 1% paraformaldehyde -0.25% glutaraldehyde demonstrated that distal tubules are the major cortical site for this sodium transport enzyme. Cortical collecting tubules were moderately reactive, whereas activity in proximal tubules was resolved only after short fixation times and long incubations. In all cases, K-NPPase activity was restricted to the cytoplasmic side of the basolateral plasma membranes, which are characterized in these neplron segments by elaborate folding of the cell surface. Although the rat K-NPPase appeared almost completely insensitive to ouabain with this cytochemical medium, parallel studies with the more glycoside-sensitive rabbit kidney indicated that K-NPPase activity in these nephron segments is sensitive to this inhibitor. In addition to K-NPPase, nonspecific alkaline phosphatase also hydrolyzed NPP. The latter could be differentiated cytochemically from the specific phosphatase, since alkaline phosphatase was K-independent, insensitive to ouabain, and specifically inhibited by cysteine. Unlike K-NPPPase, alkaline phosphatase was localized primarily to the extracellular side of the microvillar border of proximal tubules. A small amount of cysteine-sensitive activity was resolved along peritubular surfaces of proximal tubules. Distal tubules were unreactive. In comparative studies, Mg-ATPase activity was localized along the extracellular side of the luminal and basolateral surfaces of proximal and distal tubules and the basolateral membranes of collecting tubules.

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