When the washed red cells of heparinized human blood are exposed at 4°C. to methanol, ethanol, guaiacol, or resorcinol in hypolytic concentrations in isotonic NaCl, the prolytic loss of K at the end of 20 hours varies from about 25 per cent of the initial K content of the cells in the case of 3.1 M methanol to about 55 per cent of the initial K in the case of 0.04 M resorcinol. As in the case of the prolytic losses observed with other lysins, the K loss is rapid at first and then slows down so that what appears to be a new steady state is reached logarithmically.
The K lost from the cells during the period of the prolytic loss is replaced by an approximately equivalent amount of Na, derived from the isotonic NaCl in which the cells are suspended. The Na which enters can be replaced by K by washing the cells in isotonic KCl, and this K can again be replaced by Na by washing the cells in isotonic NaCl. The remainder of the cell K., i.e. the K which was not lost during the period of the prolytic loss, is retained in the cell unaffected by these washing procedures.
The capacity of red cells for undergoing disk-sphere transformations is scarcely affected by their having been exposed to hypolytic concentrations of methanol, ethanol, guaiacol, or resorcinol in isotonic NaCl, and their resistance to osmotic hemolysis and to lysis by saponin and digitonin is altered only in minor respects even when as much as 50 per cent of the cell K has been exchanged for Na.
Some restriction to the movement of K between the cell and its environment is apparently modified irreversibly when the cell is exposed to hypolytic concentrations of lysins, and the modification is such that only a fraction of the cell K is affected, the fraction being a function of the lysin concentration, the duration of its action, and other factors. A modification of some part of the cell structure and of the properties dependent on its integrity is probably involved: K may be lost more readily from some cells than from others, from some parts of the cell more readily than from other parts, or the explanation may lie in changes in the extent to which Hb binds ions or in modifications of metabolic processes.