It is not known whether the activation of Na/H exchange by shrinkage in dog red cells is due to the packing of cell contents or a change in cell configuration. To make this distinction we prepared resealed ghosts that resembled intact cells in hemoglobin concentration and surface area, but had one-third their volume. A shrinkage-induced, amiloride-sensitive Na flux in the ghosts was activated at a much smaller volume in the ghosts than in the intact cells, but at the same concentration (by weight) of dry solids in both preparations. Na/H exchange in ghosts containing a mixture of 40% albumin and 60% hemoglobin (weight/weight) was activated by osmotic shrinkage at a dry solid concentration similar to that of intact cells or of ghosts containing only hemoglobin. We conclude that the process of Na/H exchange activation by cell shrinkage originates with an increase in the concentration of intracellular protein and not with a change in membrane configuration or tension. The macromolecular crowding that accompanies the reduction in cell volume probably alters the activities of key enzymes that in turn modulate the Na/H exchanger.

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