The roles of apical and basolateral transport mechanisms in the regulation of cell volume and the hydraulic water permeabilities (Lp) of the individual cell membranes of the Amphiuma early distal tubule (diluting segment) were evaluated using video and optical techniques as well as conventional and Cl-sensitive microelectrodes. The Lp of the apical cell membrane calculated per square centimeter of tubule is less than 3% that of the basolateral cell membrane. Calculated per square centimeter of membrane, the Lp of the apical cell membrane is less than 40% that of the basolateral cell membrane. Thus, two factors are responsible for the asymmetry in the Lp of the early distal tubule: an intrinsic difference in the Lp per square centimeter of membrane area, and a difference in the surface areas of the apical and basolateral cell membranes. Early distal tubule cells do not regulate volume after a reduction in bath osmolality. This cell swelling occurs without a change in the intracellular Cl content or the basolateral cell membrane potential. In contrast, reducing the osmolality of the basolateral solution in the presence of luminal furosemide diminishes the magnitude of the increase in cell volume to a value below that predicted from the change in osmolality. This osmotic swelling is associated with a reduction in the intracellular Cl content. Hence, early distal tubule cells can lose solute in response to osmotic swelling, but only after the apical Na/K/Cl transporter is blocked. Inhibition of basolateral Na/K ATPase with ouabain results in severe cell swelling. This swelling in response to ouabain can be inhibited by the prior application of furosemide, which suggests that the swelling is due to the continued entry of solutes, primarily through the apical cotransport pathway.

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