Dog red cell membranes contain two distinct volume-sensitive transporters: swelling-activated K-Cl cotransport and shrinkage-activated Na/H exchange. Cells were prepared with intracellular salt concentration and weight percentage of cell water (%cw) varied independently by transient permeabilization of the cell membrane to cations. The dependence of transporter-mediated Na and K influxes upon %cw and upon extracellular salt concentration (c(ext)) was measured in cells so prepared. It was found that the critical value of %cw at which transporters are activated, called the set point, is similar for the two transporters, and that the set points for the two transporters decrease similarly with increasing extracellular salt concentration. These findings suggest a common mechanism of regulation of these two transporters. Cellular Na, K, and Cl concentrations were measured as functions of %cw and c(ext). Using these data together with data from the literature for other solute concentrations, empirical expressions were developed to describe the dependence of the intracellular concentrations of all significant small molecule electrolytes, and therefore the intracellular ionic strength, upon %cw and c(ext). A mechanistic model for the dependence of the set point of an individual transporter upon intracellular ionic strength is proposed. According to this model, the set point represents a critical extent of association between the transporter and a postulated soluble regulatory protein, called regulator. Model functions are presented for the calculation of the thermodynamic activity of regulator, and hence extent of regulator-transporter association, as a function of total intracellular protein concentration (or %cw) and ionic strength. The experimentally observed dependence of set point %cw on c(ext) are simulated using these functions and the empirical expressions described above, together with reasonable but not uniquely determined values of model parameters.

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