The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 96, Issue 1, pp 85–94 | Cite as

Intracellular solute gradients during osmotic water flow: An electron-microprobe analysis

  • Roger Rick
  • Donald R. DiBona


In an attempt to quantify possible intracellular water activity gradients during ADH-induced osmotic water flow, we employed energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis to thin, freezedried cryosections obtained from fresh, shock-frozen tissue of the toad urinary bladder. The sum of all detectable small ions (Na + K + Cl) in the cellular water space was taken as an index of the intracellular osmolarity. Presuming that all ions are osmotically active, they comprise about 90% of the cellular solutes. When the cells were exposed to dilute serosal medium, the reduction in the sum of the ions agreed well with the expected reduction in osmolarity. After inducing water flow by addition of ADH and dilution of the mucosal medium, all epithelial cells showed a fall in osmolarity. The change was more pronounced in granular cells than in basal or mitochondria-rich cells, consistent with the notion that granular cells represent the main transport pathway. Most significantly, intracellular osmolarity gradients, largely caused by an uneven distribution of K and Na, were detectable in granular cells. The gradients were not observed after ADH or mucosal dilution alone, or when the direction of transepithelial water flow was reversed. We conclude from these results that there is a significant cytoplasmic resistance to water flow which may lead to intracellular gradients of water activity. Concentration gradients of diffusible cations can be explained by a flow-induced Donnan-type distribution of fixed negative charges. With regard to transepithelial Na transport, the data suggest that ADH stimulates transport by increasing the Na permeability of the apical membranes of granular cells specifically.

Key Words

ADH osmotic water flow transepithelial Na transport toad urinary bladder epithelium X-ray microanalysis intracellular ion concentrations 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Rick
    • 1
    • 2
  • Donald R. DiBona
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyUniversity of MunichMünchenWest Germany
  2. 2.Department of Physiology and BiophysicsUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirmingham

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