After osmotic perturbation, the red blood cells of Amphiuma exhibited a volume-regulatory response that returned cell volume back to or toward control values. After osmotic swelling, cell-volume regulation (regulatory volume decrease; RVD) resulted from net cellular loss of K, Cl, and osmotically obliged H2O. In contrast, the volume-regulatory response to osmotic shrinkage (regulatory volume increase; RVI) was characterized by net cellular uptake of Na, Cl, and H2O. The net K and Na fluxes characteristic of RVD and RVI are increased by 1-2 orders of magnitude above those observed in studies of volume-static control cells. The cell membrane potential of volume-regulating and volume-static cells was measured by impalement with glass microelectrodes. The information gained from the electrical and ion-flux studies led to the conclusion that the ion fluxes responsible for cell-volume regulation proceed via electrically silent pathways. Furthermore, it was observed that Na fluxes during RVI were profoundly sensitive to medium [HCO3] and that during RVI the medium becomes more acid, whereas alkaline shifts in the suspension medium accompany RVD. The experimental observations are explained by a model featuring obligatorily coupled alkali metal-H and Cl-HCO3 exchangers. The anion- and cation-exchange pathways are separate and distinct yet functionally coupled via the net flux of H. As a result of the operation of such pathways, net alkali metal, Cl, and H2O fluxes proceed in the same direction, whereas H and HCO3 fluxes are cyclic. Data also are presented that suggest that the ion-flux pathways responsible for cell-volume regulation are not activated by changes in cell volume per se but by some event associated with osmotic perturbation, such as changes in intracellular pH.

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