Net Cl- absorption in the mouse medullary thick ascending limb of Henle (mTALH) involves a furosemide-sensitive Na+:K+:2 Cl- apical membrane symport mechanism for salt entry into cells, which occurs in parallel with a Ba++-sensitive apical K+ conductance. The present studies, using the in vitro microperfused mouse mTALH, assessed the concentration dependence of blockade of this apical membrane K+-conductive pathway by Ba++ to provide estimates of the magnitudes of the transcellular (Gc) and paracellular (Gs) electrical conductances (millisiemens per square centimeter). These studies also evaluated the effects of luminal hypertonicity produced by urea on the paracellular electrical conductance, the electrical Na+/Cl- permselectivity ratio, and the morphology of in vitro mTALH segments exposed to peritubular antidiuretic hormone (ADH). Increasing luminal Ba++ concentrations, in the absence of luminal K+, produced a progressive reduction in the transcellular conductance that was maximal at 20 mM Ba++. The Ba++-sensitive transcellular conductance in the presence of ADH was 61.8 +/- 1.7 mS/cm2, or approximately 65% of the total transepithelial conductance. In phenomenological terms, the luminal Ba++-dependent blockade of the transcellular conductance exhibited negative cooperativity. The transepithelial osmotic gradient produced by luminal urea produced blebs on apical surfaces, a striking increase in shunt conductance, and a decrease in the shunt Na+/Cl- permselectivity (PNa/PCl), which approached that of free solution. The transepithelial conductance obtained with luminal 800 mM urea, 20 mM Ba++, and 0 K+ was 950 +/- 150 mS/cm2 and provided an estimate of the maximal diffusion resistance of intercellular spaces, exclusive of junctional complexes. The calculated range for junctional dilution voltages owing to interspace salt accumulation during ADH-dependent net NaCl absorption was 0.7-1.1 mV. Since the Ve accompanying ADH-dependent net NaCl absorption is 10 mV, lumen positive, virtually all of the spontaneous transepithelial voltage in the mouse mTALH is due to transcellular transport processes. Finally, we developed a series of expressions in which the ratio of net Cl- absorption to paracellular Na+ absorption could be expressed in terms of a series of electrical variables. Specifically, an analysis of paired measurement of PNa/PCl and Gs was in agreement with an electroneutral Na+:K+:2 Cl- apical entry step. Thus, for net NaCl absorption, approximately 50% of Na+ was absorbed via a paracellular route.

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