Quiescent human peripheral blood lymphocytes have been shown to maintain a relatively constant intracellular pH of 7.0-7.2 over an extracellular pH range of 6.9-7.4. Two methods of measuring intracellular pH were used in these studies, 19F nuclear magnetic resonance and [14C]5,5-dimethyloxazolidine-2,4-dione (DMO) equilibrium distributions. When ATP levels were decreased in these cells, actively maintained pH regulation was abolished and cells exhibited a constant pH gradient of 0.2 pH unit (acid inside relative to outside). Possible mechanisms for pH regulation are discussed. The effects of the Na+ and K+ composition of the medium on pH regulation showed no correlation with their effects on mitogen-induced proliferative response, which we have previously determined (Deutsch, C., and M. Price, 1982, J. Cell. Physiol., 111:73-79). In low-Na+ mannitol medium, pH regulation was similar to that observed for lymphocytes in normal medium, whereas mitogen-induced proliferation was severely inhibited in low-Na+ mannitol. In contrast, high-K+, low Na+ medium caused loss of pH homeostasis, whereas it restored the proliferative response. Loss of pH homeostasis was also observed on prolonged exposure of lymphocytes to mitogen (greater than 6 h in culture). However, mitogen stimulation led to little or no change in intracellular pH in the first few hours of cell culture. Therefore, a shift in intracellular pH is not a necessary or general event in mitogen-stimulated proliferation of lymphocytes.

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