The properties of Na-Ca-K exchange current through the plasma membrane of intact rod outer segments (ROS) isolated from bovine retinas were studied with the optical probe neutral red. Small cellular organelles such as bovine ROS do not offer an adequate collecting area to measure Na-Ca-K exchange currents with electrophysiological techniques. This study demonstrates that Na-Ca-K exchange current in bovine ROS can be measured with the dye neutral red and dual-wavelength spectrophotometry. The binding of neutral red is sensitive to transport of cations across the plasma membrane of ROS by the effect of the translocated cations on the surface potential of the intracellular disk membranes (1985. J. Membr. Biol. 88: 249-262). Electrogenic Na+ fluxes through the ROS plasma membrane were measured with a resolution of 10(5) Na+ ions/ROS per s, equivalent to a current of approximately 0.01 pA; maximal electrogenic Na-Ca-K exchange flux in bovine ROS was equivalent to a maximal exchange current of 1-2 pA. Electrogenic Na+ fluxes were identified as Na-Ca-K exchange current based on a comparison between electrogenic Na+ flux and Na(+)-stimulated Ca2+ release with respect to flux rate, Na+ dependence, and ion selectivity. Neutral red monitored the net entry of a single positive charge carried by Na+ for each Ca2+ ion released (i.e., monitored the Na-Ca-K exchange current). Na-Ca-K exchange in the plasma membrane of bovine ROS had the following properties: (a) Inward Na-Ca-K exchange current required internal Ca2+ (half-maximal stimulation at a free Ca2+ concentration of 0.9 microM), whereas outward Na-Ca-K exchange current required both external Ca2+ (half-maximal stimulation at a free Ca2+ concentration of 1.1 microM) and external K+. (b) Inward Na-Ca-K exchange current depended in a sigmoidal manner on the external Na+ concentration, identical to Na(+)-stimulated Ca2+ release measured with Ca(2+)-indicating dyes. (c) The neutral red method was modified to measure Ca(2+)-activated K+ fluxes (half-maximal stimulation at 2.7 microM free Ca2+) via the Na-Ca-K exchanger in support of the notion that the rod Na-Ca exchanger is in effect a Na-Ca-K exchanger. (d) Competitive interactions between Ca2+ and Na+ ions on the exchanger protein are described.

This content is only available as a PDF.