After massive hemorrhage, adult sheep with genotypically low potassium (LK) red cells temporarily produce high potassium (HK) cells with ouabain-sensitive K+ pump fluxes equivalent to mature HK red cells. In light of recent reports of different red cell volume populations accompanying the HK-LK transition also occurring in newborn LK sheep and the unresolved controversy over the effect of anti-L on K+ transport in these immature red cells, we have reexamined the K+ transport changes and the effect of anti-L in the newly formed HK cells at various times after anemic stress and under in vitro conditions. We found that approximately 7 d after bleeding, maximum reticulocytosis occurred in the peripheral blood. After separation by density centrifugation, the top 10% cell fraction contained 100% reticulocytes, with a mean cell volume 2.5 times larger than that of mature erythrocytes. These immature red cells were of HK type, and their K+ pump and leak fluxes were 30 and 10 times higher, respectively, than those found in mature LK cells. The new cells may possess HK- and LK-type pumps because K+ pump influx was significantly stimulated by anti-L. When separated by density centrifugation on days 9, 17, and 23 after bleeding, some of the cells apparently maintained their large size while gaining higher density. Large cells from day 9, kept in vitro for 22 h, showed anti-L-sensitive K+ pump and leak fluxes that declined within hours, paralleling the behavior of these cells in vivo, whereas cellular K+ levels changed much less. It is concluded that the newly formed red cells may belong to a stress-induced macrocytic cell population that does not acquire all of the characteristics of adult LK cells.

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