The free magnesium concentration in the axoplasm of the giant axon of the squid, Loligo pealei, was estimated by exploting the known sensitivity of the sodium pump to intracellular Mg2+ levels. The Mg-citrate buffer which, when injected into the axon, resulted in no change in sodium efflux was in equilibrium with a Mg2+ level of about 3--4 mM. Optimal [Mg2+] for the sodium pump is somewhat higher. Total magnesium content of axoplasm was 6.7 mmol/kg, and that of hemolymph was 44 mM. The rate coefficient for 28Mg efflux was about 2 X 10(-3) min-u for a 500-mum axon at 22-25degreesC, with a very high temperature coefficient (Q10=4-5). This efflux is inhibited 95% by injection of apyrase and 75% by removal of external sodium, and seems unaffected by membrane potential or potassium ions. Increased intracellular ADP levels do not affect Mg efflux nor its requirement for Na+/o, but extracellularl magnesium ions do. Activation of 28Mg efflux by Na+/o follows hyperbolic kinetics, with Mg2+/o reducing the affinity of the system for Na+/o. Lanthanum and D600 reversibly inhibit Mg efflux. In the absence of both Na+ and Mg2+, but not in their presence, removal of Ca2+ from the seawater vastly increased 28Mg efflux; this efflux was also strongly inhibited by lanthanum. A small (10(-14) mol cm-2) extra Mg efflux accompanies the conduction of an action potential.

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