Net H+ fluxes across the plasma membrane of Chinese hamster lung fibroblasts (CC139) were monitored by pH-stat titration. Na+-depleted cells release H+ upon addition of Na+. Conversely Na+- or Li+-loaded cells take up H+ from the medium when shifted to a Na+,Li+-free medium. This reversible Na+ (or Li+)-dependent H+ flux is inhibited by amiloride and does not occur in digitonin-permeabilized cells. A similar Na+/H+ exchanger was identified in vascular smooth muscle cells, corneal and aortic endothelial cells, lens epithelial cells of bovine origin, and human platelets. Kinetic studies carried out with CC139 cells indicate the following properties: 1) half-saturation of the system is observed at pH = 7.8, in the absence of Na+; 2) external Na+ stimulates H+ release and inhibits H+ uptake in a competitive manner (Ki = 2-3 mM); 3) amiloride is a competitive inhibitor for Na+ (Ki congruent to 1 microM) and a noncompetitive inhibitor for H+; 4) a coupling ratio of 1.3 +/- 0.3 for the H+/Li+ exchange suggests a stoichiometry of 1:1. We conclude that CC139 cells possess in their plasma membrane a reversible, electroneutral, and amiloride-sensitive Na+/H+ antiporter, with two distinct and mutually exclusive binding sites for Na+ and H+. The rapid stimulation of the Na+/H+ antiporter in G0/G1-arrested CC139 cells upon addition of growth factors, together with the fact that intracellular H+ concentration is, under physiological conditions, around the apparent K0.5 of the system, strongly suggests a key role of this antiport in pHi regulation and mitogen action.
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