Coupled Na+ exit/Ca2+ entry (Na/Ca exchange operating in the Ca2+ influx mode) was studied in giant barnacle muscle cells by measuring 22Na+ efflux and 45Ca2+ influx in internally perfused, ATP-fueled cells in which the Na+ pump was poisoned by 0.1 mM ouabain. Internal free Ca2+, [Ca2+]i, was controlled with a Ca-EGTA buffering system containing 8 mM EGTA and varying amounts of Ca2+. Ca2+ sequestration in internal stores was inhibited with caffeine and a mitochondrial uncoupler (FCCP). To maximize conditions for Ca2+ influx mode Na/Ca exchange, and to eliminate tracer Na/Na exchange, all of the external Na+ in the standard Na+ sea water (NaSW) was replaced by Tris or Li+ (Tris-SW or LiSW, respectively). In both Na-free solutions an external Ca2+ (Cao)-dependent Na+ efflux was observed when [Ca2+]i was increased above 10(-8) M; this efflux was half-maximally activated by [Ca2+]i = 0.3 microM (LiSW) to 0.7 microM (Tris-SW). The Cao-dependent Na+ efflux was half-maximally activated by [Ca2+]o = 2.0 mM in LiSW and 7.2 mM in Tris-SW; at saturating [Ca2+]o, [Ca2+]i, and [Na+]i the maximal (calculated) Cao-dependent Na+ efflux was approximately 75 pmol#cm2.s. This efflux was inhibited by external Na+ and La3+ with IC50's of approximately 125 and 0.4 mM, respectively. A Nai-dependent Ca2+ influx was also observed in Tris-SW. This Ca2+ influx also required [Ca2+]i greater than 10(-8) M. Internal Ca2+ activated a Nai-independent Ca2+ influx from LiSW (tracer Ca/Ca exchange), but in Tris-SW virtually all of the Cai-activated Ca2+ influx was Nai-dependent (Na/Ca exchange). Half-maximal activation was observed with [Na+]i = 30 mM. The fact that internal Ca2+ activates both a Cao-dependent Na+ efflux and a Nai-dependent Ca2+ influx in Tris-SW implies that these two fluxes are coupled; the activating (intracellular) Ca2+ does not appear to be transported by the exchanger. The maximal (calculated) Nai-dependent Ca2+ influx was -25 pmol/cm2.s. At various [Na+]i between 6 and 106 mM, the ratio of the Cao-dependent Na+ efflux to the Nai-dependent Ca2+ influx was 2.8-3.2:1 (mean = 3.1:1); this directly demonstrates that the stoichiometry (coupling ratio) of the Na/Ca exchange is 3:1. These observations on the coupling ratio and kinetics of the Na/Ca exchanger imply that in resting cells the exchanger turns over at a low rate because of the low [Ca2+]i; much of the Ca2+ extrusion at rest (approximately 1 pmol/cm2.s) is thus mediated by an ATP-driven Ca2+ pump.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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