Addition of polypeptide growth factors to cultured cells results in a rapid stimulation of Na+/H+ exchange, which leads to cytoplasmic alkalinization. We studied the effects of the potent tumor promoter phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) on the Na+/H+ exchange system of A431 cells. Stimulation of Na+/H+ exchange by epidermal growth factor (EGF) and serum as well as by vanadate ions is strongly inhibited after treatment of cells with nanomolar concentrations of PMA. Phorbol esters that have no activity as tumor promoters also do not modulate the activation of Na+/H+ exchange. By contrast, the stimulation of Na+/H+ exchange that is produced upon exposure of cells to hypertonic solution is only slightly inhibited by PMA treatment, indicating that PMA treatment does not directly block the activity of the Na+/H+ antiporter. Furthermore, incubation of cells with PMA causes a weak stimulation of Na+/H+ exchange, although this effect is mostly observed at relatively high PMA concentrations and appears to require external Ca2+. The inhibition BY PMA of EGF-promoted Na+/H+ exchange is not due to inhibition of EGF-binding to the EGF receptor. Since PMA activates protein kinase C, our observations are consistent with the hypothesis that protein kinase C functions to attenuate the stimulation of Na+/H+ exchange by polypeptide growth factors.

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