Stable electrical potential differences can be measured by means of conventional glass microelectrodes across the cell membrane of renal tubule cells and across the epithelial wall of single tubules in the doubly perfused kidney of Necturus. These measurements have been carried out with amphibian Ringer's solution, and with solutions of altered ionic composition. The proximal tubule cell has been found to be electrically asymmetrical inasmuch as a smaller potential difference is maintained across the luminal cell membrane than across the peritubular cell boundary. The tubule lumen is always electrically negative with respect to the peritubular extracellular medium. Observations on the effectiveness of potassium ions in depolarizing single tubule cells indicate that the transmembrane potential is essentially an inverse function of the logarithm of the external potassium concentration. The behavior of the peritubular transmembrane potential resembles more closely an ideal potassium electrode than that of the luminal transmembrane potential. From these results, and the effects of various ionic substitutions on the electrical profile of the renal tubular epithelium, a thesis concerning the origin of the observed potential differences is presented. A sodium extrusion mechanism is considered to be located at the peritubular cell boundary, and reasons are given for the hypothesis that the electrical asymmetry across the proximal renal tubule cell could arise as a consequence of differences in the relative sodium and potassium permeability at the luminal and peritubular cell boundaries.

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