A cyclic depsipeptide antibiotic, valinomycin, was found to produce increased selective permeability of the plasma membranes of HK and LK sheep red blood cells to potassium but not to sodium ions. The compound had relatively little effect on the active extrusion of sodium from HK sheep red blood cells or on the Na + K-stimulated ATPase activity of membranes derived from these cells. It is proposed that the selective cation permeability produced by this compound depends primarily on steric factors, particularly the relationship between the diameter of the ring and the effective diameter of the ion. The significance of these results for the problem of the mechanism of ionic selectivity in natural membranes is discussed.

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