1. 1.

    Active potassium transport across the isolated midgut of the Tobacco Hornworm larva, Manduca sexta, was studied by measuring the short circuit current (ISC) and unidirectional 42-potassium fluxes.

  2. 2.

    The midgut is composed of structurally distinct anterior, middle and posterior regions, all of which are shown to transport potassium, so that by comparing and contrasting their structural and functional properties new information on the mechanism of midgut potassium transport was obtained.

  3. 3.

    It has previously been shown that the potassium pump is located on the apical membrane of the goblet cell. In the anterior and middle regions of the midgut the goblet cell has a large cavity and mitochondria are closely associated with the apical membrane while in the posterior midgut the goblet cavity is much smaller, and mitochondria are not associated with the apical membrane. However, the apical membrane particles which have been implicated in active potassium transport in a number of other insect epithelia are present in all three regions. This observation suggests that the particles are a structural requirement for active transport, and that close association between mitochondria and the transporting membrane is not essential.

  4. 4.

    Comparison of the kinetic influx pool size and the differences in the ISC decay profiles between the three midgut regions suggest that part of the influx pool is a transported pool located in the goblet cavity.

  5. 5.

    A new model to explain the driving force for potassium transport in the midgut is proposed, in which the rate of potassium transport controls the entrance of potassium into the cell, rather than the opposite, currently accepted view.

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