, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 313-331

Electron microprobe analysis of frog skin epithelium: Evidence for a syncytial sodium transport compartment

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For elucidation of the functional organization of frog skin epithelium with regard to transepithelial Na transport, electrolyte concentrations in individual epithelial cells were determined by electron microprobe analysis. The measurements were performed on 1-μm thick freeze-dried cryosections by an energy-dispersive X-ray detecting system. Quantification of the electrolyte concentrations was achieved by comparing the X-ray intensities obtained in the cells with those of an internal albumin standard.

The granular, spiny, and germinal cells, which constitute the various layers of the epithelium, showed an identical behavior of their Na and K concentrations under all experimental conditions. In the control, both sides of the skin bathed in frog Ringer's solution, the mean cellular concentrations (in mmole/kg wet wt) were 9 for Na and 118 for K. Almost no change in the cellular Na occurred when the inside bathing solution was replaced by a Na-free isotonic Ringer's solution, whereas replacing the outside solution by distilled water resulted in a decrease of Na to almost zero in all layers. Inhibition of the transepithelial Na transport by ouabain (10−4 m) produced an increase in Na to 109 and a decrease in K to 16. The effect of ouabain on the cellular Na and K concentrations was completely cancelled when the Na influx from the outside was prevented, either by removing Na or adding amiloride (10−4 m). When, after the action of ouabain, Na was removed from the outside bathing solution, the Na and K concentration in all layers returned to control values. The latter effect could be abolished by amiloride.

The other cell types of the epithelium showed under some experimental conditions a different behavior. In the cornified cells and the light cells, which occurred occasionally in the stratum granulosum, the electrolyte concentrations approximated those of the outer bathing meium under all experimental conditions. In the mitochondria-rich cells, the Na influx after ouabain could not be, prevented by adding amiloride. In the gland cells, only a small change in the Na and K concentrations could be detected after ouabain.

The results of the present study are consistent with a two-barrier concept of transepithelial Na transport. The Na transport compartment comprises all living epithelial layers. Therefore, with the exception of some epithelial cell types, the frog skin epithelium can be regarded as a functional syncytium for Na.