The effect of ACTH and adrenal steroids on K transport in human erythrocytes has been studied. A new method of calculation has revealed that in normal human erythrocytes the K transport is not independent of external K concentration as had previously been thought. The equation describing the relationship is,
K influx (m.eq./liter cells hour) = [K]pi/(0.697 + 0.329 [K]pi)
in which [K]pi refers to the plasma K concentration at the beginning of the experiment. At the physiological plasma K concentration of 4.65 m.eq./liter, K influx is 2.09 m.eq./liter cells hour; K efflux is 1.95 m.eq./liter cells hour and is independent of plasma K concentration.
The effect of the infusion of ACTH and adrenal steroids on the K content of the erythrocytes was also studied. Infusions of ACTH or cortisone do not cause the expected loss in erythrocyte K content and may well cause a gain.
Infusions of ACTH and cortisone decrease the rate of K influx and efflux slightly at all stages of the infusion, as measured in vitro in blood samples drawn at various times during and following the infusion. However, the erythrocytes incubated in vitro do not exhibit the same changes in K content as are found in vivo. Hydrocortisone added to normal cells in vitro also decreases both influx and efflux of K, without affecting the K content of the cells.