Recessed-tip microelectrodes were used to measure internal pH (pHi) in the fungus Neurospora, and to examine the response of pHi to several kinds of stress: changes of extracellular pH (pHo), inhibition of the principal proton pump in the plasma membrane, and inhibition of respiration. Under control conditions, at pHo = 5.8, pHi in Neurospora is 7.19 +/- 0.04. Changes of pHo between 3.9 and 9.3 affect pHi linearly but with a slope of only approximately 0.1 unit pHi per unit pHo, stable pHi being reached within 3 min of changed pHo. Despite a postulated high passive permeability of the Neurospora membrane to protons (Slayman, 1970), neither active nor passive H+ transport appears critical to pHi because (alpha) specific inhibition of the proton pump by orthovanadate has little effect on pHi, and (b) cytoplasmic acidification produced by respiratory blockade is unaffected by the size or direction of proton gradient. To convert measured changes in pHi into net proton fluxes, intracellular buffering capacity (beta i) was measured by the weak acid/weak base technique. At pHi = 7.2, beta i was (-) 35 mmol H+ (liter cell water)-1 (pH unit)-1, but beta i increased substantially in both the acid and alkaline directions, which suggests that amino acid side chains are the principal source of buffer.

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