Many vertebrate transporting epithelia contain characteristic ‘mitochondria-rich’ cells that express high levels of a vacuolar proton-pumping ATPase (H(+)V-ATPase) on their plasma membrane and on intracellular vesicles. In the kidney cortex, A-cells and B-cells are involved in proton secretion and bicarbonate secretion, respectively, in the distal nephron and collecting duct. A-cells have an H(+)V-ATPase on their apical plasma membrane and on intracellular vesicles, whereas the cellular location of the H(+)V-ATPase can be apical, basolateral, bipolar or diffuse in B-cells. The rat epididymis and vas deferens also contain a distinct population of H(+)V-ATPase-rich epithelial cells. These cells are involved in generating a low luminal pH, which is involved in sperm maturation and in maintaining sperm in an immotile state during their passage through the epididymis and vas deferens. In both kidney and reproductive tract, H(+)V-ATPase-rich cells have a high rate of apical membrane recycling. H(+)V-ATPase molecules are transported between the cell surface and the cytoplasm in vesicles that have a well-defined ‘coat’ structure formed of the peripheral V(1) subunits of the H(+)V-ATPase. In addition, we propose that B-type intercalated cells have a transcytotic pathway that enables them to shuttle H(+)V-ATPase molecules from apical to basolateral plasma membrane domains. This hypothesis is supported by data showing that A-cells and B-cells have different intracellular trafficking pathways for LGP120, a lysosomal glycoprotein. LGP120 was found both on the basolateral plasma membrane and in lysosomes in B-cells, whereas no LGP120 was detectable in the plasma membrane of A-cells. We propose that the ‘polarity reversal’ of the H(+)V-ATPase in B-intercalated cells is mediated by a physiologically regulated transcytotic pathway that may be similar to that existing in some other cell types.

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