Scanning Microscopy


X-ray microanalysis was used to study elemental distribution in Malpighian tubule cells of Locusta migratoria and how these are affected by the replacement of bathing medium K+ with Rb+ and by inclusion of the transport inhibitors ouabain and n-ethyl maleimide (NEM) in standard (K+-containing) and Rb+-Ringer (K+-free) solutions. Incubation of tubules in standard Ringer containing 1 mM ouabain dramatically affected the intracellular levels of K and Na. The intracellular K concentration fell and Na concentration increased in all regions studied. Despite this, a gradient of increasing K concentration from basal to apical cell surface was maintained. Ouabain also reduced the intracellular levels of Rb when applied in Rb+-Ringer. Cl and P levels were unaffected by ouabain treatment.

Incubation in standard and Rb+-Ringer solutions containing 1μM NEM caused a significant increase in intracellular K levels in all regions of the cell compared with that observed in the absence of NEM. Rb levels were little affected by NEM except in the apical cytoplasm and microvillar regions where they were significantly reduced compared with Rb+-Ringer controls. NEM effected a significant increase in cellular levels of Na under Rb+-Ringer conditions. Intracellular Cl and P were not significantly affected by NEM.

These results are discussed in relation to proposed mechanisms for the transport of ions and water across this secretory epithelium, with particular emphasis on the role of K+ as the 'prime mover' in this process.

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