The inner stripe of the outer medullary collecting tubule is a major distal nephron segment in urinary acidification. To examine the mechanism of basolateral membrane H+/OH-/HCO3- transport in this segment, cell pH was measured microfluorometrically in the inner stripe of the rabbit outer medullary collecting tubule perfused in vitro using the pH-sensitive fluorescent dye, (2',7')-bis(carboxyethyl)-(5,6)-carboxyfluorescein. Decreasing peritubular pH from 7.4 to 6.8 (changing [HCO3-] from 25 to 5 mM) caused a cell acidification of 0.25 +/- 0.02 pH units, while a similar luminal change resulted in a smaller cell acidification of only 0.04 +/- 0.01 pH units. Total replacement of peritubular Cl- with gluconate caused cell pH to increase by 0.18 +/- 0.04 pH units, an effect inhibited by 100 microM peritubular DIDS and independent of Na+. Direct coupling between Cl- and base was suggested by the continued presence of peritubular Cl- removal-induced cell alkalinization under the condition of a cell voltage clamp (K(+)-valinomycin). In addition, 90% of basolateral membrane H+/OH-/HCO3- permeability was inhibited by complete removal of luminal and peritubular Cl-. Peritubular Cl(-)-induced cell pH changes were inhibited two-thirds by removal of exogenous CO2/HCO3- from the system. The apparent Km for peritubular Cl- determined in the presence of 25 mM luminal and peritubular [HCO3-] was 113.5 +/- 14.8 mM. These results demonstrate that the basolateral membrane of the inner stripe of the outer medullary collecting tubule possesses a stilbene-sensitive Cl-/HCO3- exchanger which mediates 90% of basolateral membrane H+/OH-/HCO3- permeability and may be regulated by physiologic Cl- concentrations.

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