The course of intracellular pH (pHi) was followed in superfused (36 degrees C) single glomus (type I) cells of the freshly dissociated adult rat carotid body. The cells had been loaded with the pH-sensitive fluorescent dye 2',7'-(2-carboxyethyl)-5 (and -6)-carboxyfluorescein. The high K(+)-nigericin method was used for calibration. The pHi of the glomus cell at pHo 7.40, without CO2, was 7.23 +/- 0.02 (n = 70); in 5% CO2/25 mM HCO3-, pHi was 7.18 +/- 0.08 (n = 9). The pHi was very sensitive to changes in pHo. Without CO2, delta pHi/delta pHo was 0.85 (pHo 6.20-8.00; 32 cells), while in CO2/HCO3- this ratio was 0.82 irrespective of whether pHo (6.80-7.40; 14 cells) was changed at constant PCO2 or at constant [HCO3-]o. The great pHi sensitivity of the glomus cell to pHo is matched only by that of the human red cell. An active Na+/H+ exchanger (apparent Km = 58 +/- 6 mM) is present in glomus cells: Na+ removal or addition of the amiloride derivative 5-(N,N-hexamethylene)-amiloride induced pHi to fall by as much as 0.9. The membrane of these cells also contains a K+/H+ exchanger. Raising [K+]o from 4.7 to 25, 50, or 140 mM reversibly raised pHi by 0.2, 0.3, and 0.6, respectively. Rb+ had no effect, but in corresponding concentrations of Tl+ alkalinization was much faster than in K+. Reducing [K+]o to 1.5 mM lowered pHi by 0.1. These pHi changes were shown not to be due to changes in membrane voltage, and were even more striking in the absence of Na+. Intrinsic buffering power (amount of strong base required to produce, in the nominal absence of CO2, a small pHi rise) increased from 3 to approximately 21 mM as pHi was lowered, but remained nearly unchanged below pHi 6.60. The fitted expression assumed the presence of one "equivalent" intracellular buffer (pK 6.41, 41 mM). The exceptional pHi sensitivity to pHo suggests that the pHi of the glomus cell is a link in the chemoreceptor's response to external acidity.

This content is only available as a PDF.