The role of Na+-H+ exchange in Na+ transport across the apical membrane was evaluated in Necturus gallbladder epithelium by means of intracellular Na+ activity (aNai) and 22Na+ uptake measurements. Under control conditions, complete replacement of Na+ in the mucosal solution with tetramethylammonium reduced aNai from 14.0 to 6.9 mM in 2 min (P less than 0.001). Mucosal addition of the Na+-H+ exchange inhibitor amiloride (10(-3) M) reduced aNai from 15.0 to 13.3 mM (P less than 0.001), whereas bumetanide (10(-5) and 10(-4) M) had no effect. Na+ influx across the apical membrane was studied by treating the tissues with ouabain, bathing them in Na-free solutions, and suddenly replacing the mucosal solution with an Na-containing solution. When the mucosal solution was replaced with Na-Ringer's, aNai increased at approximately 11 mM/min. This increase was inhibited by 54% by amiloride (10(-3) M, P less than 0.001) and was unaffected by bumetanide (10(-5) M). Amiloride-inhibitable Na+ fluxes across the apical membrane were also induced by the imposition of pH gradients. Na+ influx was also examined in tissues that had not been treated with ouabain. Under control conditions, 22Na+ influx from the mucosal solution into the epithelium was linear over the first 60 s and was inhibited by 40% by amiloride (10(-3) M, P less than 0.001) and by 19% by bumetanide (10(-5) M, P less than 0.025). We conclude that Na+-H+ exchange is a major pathway for Na+ entry in Necturus gallbladder, which accounts for at least half of apical Na+ influx both under transporting conditions and during exposure to ouabain. Bumetanide-inhibitable Na+ entry mechanisms may account for only a smaller fraction of Na+ influx under transporting conditions, and cannot explain influx in ouabain-treated tissues. These results support the hypothesis that NaCl entry results primarily from the operation of parallel Na+-H+ and Cl--HCO-3 exchangers, and not from a bumetanide-inhibitable NaCl cotransporter.

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