The transport properties of potassium (K) and sodium (Na) were studied in single distal tubules of Amphiuma using free-flow micropuncture techniques and stationary microperfusion methods. The transepithelial movement of labeled potassium was measured utilizing a three-compartment system in series in which the time course of tracer disappearance from the lumen was followed. Under control conditions, in blood- and doubly-perfused kidneys, extensive active net reabsorption of sodium and potassium obtains along single distal tubules. Tubular potassium reabsorption is abolished by ouabain at a concentration of 5 x 10-6 M. Significant net secretion of K can be induced by exposing Amphiuma to a high K environment (100 mM KCl) or by adding acetazoleamide (1 x 10-4 M) to the perfusion fluid. Transepithelial movement of potassium involves mixing with only a small fraction of total distal tubular cell potassium. This transport pool of potassium increases significantly with the transition from tubular net reabsorption to net secretion. Indirect evidence is presented which indicates that increased active K uptake across the peritubular cell boundary may be of prime importance during states of net K secretion.

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