The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 351–384 | Cite as

Active sodium transport and the electrophysiology of rabbit colon

  • Stanley G. Schultz
  • Raymond A. Frizzell
  • Hugh N. Nellans


The electrophysiologic properties of rabbit colonic epithelial cells were investigated employing microelectrode techniques. Under open-circuit conditions, the transepithelial electrical potential difference (PD) averaged 20 mV, serosa positive, and the intracellular electrical potential (ψ mc ) averaged −32 mV, cell interior negative with respect to the mucosal solution; under short-circuit conditions,ψ mc averaged −46 mV. The addition of amiloride to the mucosal solution abolishes the transepithelialPD and active Na transport, andψ mc is hyperpolarized to an average value of −53 mV. These results indicate that Na entry into the mucosal cell is a conductive process which, normally, depolarizesψ mc .

The data obtained were interpreted using a double-membrane equivalent electrical circuit model of the “active Na transport pathway” involving two voltage-independent electromotive forces (emf's) and two voltage-independent resistances arrayed in series. Our observations are consistent with the notions that:
  1. (a)

    The emf's and resistances across the mucosal and baso-lateral membranes are determined predominantly by the emf (64mV) and resistance of the Na entry process and the emf (53 mV) and resistance of the process responsible for active Na extrusion across the baso-lateral membranes: that is, the electrophysiological properties of the cell appear to be determined solely by the properties and processes responsible for transcellular active Na transport. The emf of the Na entry process is consistent with the notion that the Na activity in the intracellular transport pool is approximately one-tenth that in the mucosal solution or about 14mM.

  2. (b)

    In the presence of amiloride, the transcellular conductance is essentially abolished and the total tissue conductance is the result of ionic diffusion through paracellular pathways.

  3. (c)

    The negative intracellular potential (with respect to the mucosal solution) is due primarily to the presence of a low resistance paracellular “shunt” pathway which permits electrical coupling between the emf at the baso-lateral membrane and the potential difference across the mucosal membrane; in the absence of this shunt, the “well-type” electrical potential profile characteristic of rabbit colonic cells would be ‘converted’ into a “staircase-type” profile similar to those reported for frog skin and toad urinary bladder by some investigators.



Amiloride Frog Skin Equivalent Electrical Circuit Paracellular Pathway Electrical Potential Difference 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanley G. Schultz
    • 1
  • Raymond A. Frizzell
    • 1
  • Hugh N. Nellans
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburgh

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