The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 85–97 | Cite as

Estimate of the number of urea transport sites in erythrocyte ghosts using a hydrophobic mercurial

  • Lidia M. Mannuzzu
  • Mario M. Moronne
  • Robert I. Macey


In this paper a variety of mercurials, including a pCMB-nitroxide analogue, were used to study urea transport in human red cell ghosts. It was determined that the rate of inhibition for pCMBS, pCMB, pCMB-nitroxide, and chlormerodrin extended over four orders of magnitude consistent with their measured oil/water partition coefficients. From these results, we concluded that a significant hydrophobic barrier limits access to the urea inhibition site, suggesting that the urea site is buried in the bilayer or in a hydrophobic region of the transporter. In contrast, the rate of water inhibition by the mercurials ranged by only a factor of four and did not correlate with their hydrophobicities. Thus, the water inhibition site may be more directly accessible via the aqueous phase. Under conditions that leave water transport unaffected, we determined that ≤32,000 labeled sites per cell corresponded to complete inhibition of urea transport. This rules out major transmembrane proteins such as band 3, the glucose carrier, and CHIP28 as candidates for the urea transporter. In contrast, this result is consistent with the Kidd (Jk) antigen being the urea transporter with an estimated 14,000 copies per cell. From the experimental number of urea sites, a turnover number between 2–6×106 sec−1 at 22°C is calculated suggesting a channel mechanism.

Key Words

urea transport erythrocytes mercurials spin labels electron spin resonance hydrophobicity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lidia M. Mannuzzu
    • 1
  • Mario M. Moronne
    • 2
  • Robert I. Macey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Molecular and Cell BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley
  2. 2.Life Science DivisionLawrence Berkeley LaboratoryBerkeley

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