Transepithelial and intracellular potentials have been simultaneously recorded from Rhodnius upper Malpighian tubules before and after stimulation of fluid secretion. The transepithelial electrical response to the diuretic hormone mimic 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) was triphasic; recordings of intracellular potential changes indicated that the three phases represented successive events at the apical membrane. Depolarizations produced by increasing the bathing medium potassium concentration indicated that the basal membrane was much more permeable to potassium than to sodium. Electrical responses to chloride-free saline were inconsistent with a significant basal membrane chloride permeability. Chloride movements across the basal membrane were opposed by an electrical gradient of about 65 mV. The results of experiments in which tubules were exposed to chloride-free saline or sodium-free saline suggested that chloride entry into the cells was linked to the entry of Na+ and K+. The effects of furosemide and bumetanide upon secretion and potential changes suggested that chloride crossed the basal membrane through co-transport with Na+ and K+. Chloride probably crosses the apical membrane into the lumen passively in response to a favourable electrical gradient of about 35 mV. Cations must be actively pumped into the lumen against an electrical gradient of 35 mV. Our results support previous evidence for an apical cation pump which actively transports Na and K into the lumen. A tentative model of ionic movements during fluid secretion is presented. It is suggested that the apical cation pump maintains sodium at low intracellular concentrations, thereby maintaining a favourable gradient for entry of Na+ through the proposed basal co-transport step. The suggested stoichiometry is Na+:K+:2 Cl-.

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