The human, leukemic cell line, HL-60, undergoes differentiation in response to tumor-promoting phorbol esters. Recent studies have implicated stimulation of a Na+/H+ antiporter as an initial event in cellular differentiation and/or proliferation. The effects of phorbol esters on Na+-dependent H+ efflux from HL-60 cells were studied by pH-stat titration. Tumor-promoting phorbol diesters, but not the inactive parent alcohol, stimulated Na+-dependent H+ efflux in a rapid (within 1 min at 37 degrees C) and reversible manner. Stimulation was dependent on the concentration of extracellular sodium; lithium could substitute for sodium, but choline could not. Stimulation was dependent on the activity of extracellular protons and was inhibited completely by amiloride. The concentrations of phorbol diesters at which we observed half-maximal stimulation of Na+-dependent H+ efflux are very similar to the Kd reported in the literature for binding of these phorbol diesters to the phorbol ester receptor and the Km for phorbol diester activation of protein kinase C. Overall characterization of basal and phorbol ester-stimulated H+ efflux indicate that stimulation of a Na+/H+ antiporter constitutes a primary event in phorbol ester interaction with HL-60 cells.

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