The ping-pong model for the red cell anion exchange system postulates that the transport protein band 3 can exist in two different conformations, one in which the transport site faces the cytoplasm (Ei) and another in which it faces the outside medium (Eo). This model predicts that an increase in intracellular chloride should increase the fraction of sites in the outward-facing, unloaded form (Eo). Since external H2DIDS is a competitive inhibitor of chloride exchange that does not cross the membrane, it must bind only to the Eo form. Thus, an increase in Eo should cause an increase in H2DIDS inhibition. When intracellular chloride was increased at constant extracellular chloride, the inhibitory potency of H2DIDS rose, as predicted by the ping-pong model. This increase was not due to the concomitant changes in intracellular pH or membrane potential. When the chloride gradient was reversed, the inhibitory potency of H2DIDS decreased, again in qualitative agreement with the ping-pong model. These data provide support for the ping-pong model and also demonstrate that chloride gradients can be used to change the orientation of the transport protein.

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