The whole-cell patch-clamp technique was used to voltage clamp acutely isolated myocytes at -60 mV and study effects of ionic environment on Na/K pump activity. In quiescent guinea pig myocytes, normal intracellular Na+ is approximately 6 mM, which gives a total pump current of 0.25 +/- 0.09 pA/pF, and an inward background sodium current of 0.75 +/- 0.26 pA/pF. The average capacitance of a cell is 189 +/- 61 pF. Our main conclusion is the total Na/K pump current comprises currents from two different types of pumps, whose functional responses to the extracellular environment are different. Pump current was reversibly blocked with two affinities by extracellular dihydro-ouabain (DHO). We determined dissociation constants of 72 microM for low affinity (type-1) pumps and 0.75 microM for high affinity (type-h) pumps. These dissociation constants did not detectably change with two intracellular Na+ concentrations, one saturating and one near half-saturating, and with two extracellular K+ concentrations of 4.6 and 1.0 mM. Ion effects on type-h pumps were therefore measured using 5 microM DHO and on total pump current using 1 mM DHO. Extracellular K+ half-maximally activated the type-h pumps at 0.4 mM and the type-1 at 3.7 mM. Extracellular H+ blocked the type-1 pumps with half-maximal blockade at a pH of 7.71 whereas the type-h pumps were insensitive to extracellular pH. Both types of pumps responded similarly to changes in intracellular-Na+, with 9.6 mM causing half-maximal activation. Neither changes in intracellular pH between 6.0 and 7.2, nor concentrations of intracellular K+ of 140 mM or below, had any effect on either type of pump. The lack of any effect of intracellular K+ suggests the dissociation constants are in the molar range so this step in the pump cycle is not rate limiting under normal physiological conditions. Changes in intracellular-Na+ did not affect the half-maximal activation by extracellular K+, and vice versa. We found DHO-blockade of Na/K pump current in canine ventricular myocytes also occurred with two affinities, which are very similar to those from guinea pig myocytes or rat ventricular myocytes. In contrast, isolated canine Purkinje myocytes have predominantly the type-h pumps, insofar as DHO-blockade and extracellular K+ activation are much closer to our type-h results than type-1. These observations suggest for mammalian ventricular myocytes: (a) the presence of two types of Na/K pumps may be a general property. (b) Normal physiological variations in extracellular pH and K+ are important determinants of Na/K pump current. (c) Normal physiological variations in the intracellular environment affect Na/K pump current primarily via the Na+ concentration. Lastly, Na/K pump current appears to be specifically tailored for a tissue by expression of a mix of functionally different types of pumps.

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