We have compared the response of proton and water transport to oxytocin treatment in isolated frog skin and urinary bladder epithelia to provide further insights into the nature of water flow and H+ flux across individual apical and basolateral cell membranes. In isolated spontaneous sodium-transporting frog skin epithelia, lowering the pH of the apical solution from 7.4 to 6.4, 5.5, or 4.5 produced a fall in pHi in principal cells which was completely blocked by amiloride (50 microM), indicating that apical Na+ channels are permeable to protons. When sodium transport was blocked by amiloride, the H+ permeability of the apical membranes of principal cells was negligible but increased dramatically after treatment with antidiuretic hormone (ADH). In the latter condition, lowering the pH of the apical solution caused a voltage-dependent intracellular acidification, accompanied by membrane depolarization, and an increase in membrane conductance and transepithelial current. These effects were inhibited by adding Hg2+ (100 microM) or dicyclohexylcarbodiimide (DCCD, 10(-5) M) to the apical bath. Net titratable H+ flux across frog skin was increased from 30 +/- 8 to 115 +/- 18 neq.h-1.cm-2 (n = 8) after oxytocin treatment (at apical pH 5.5 and serosal pH 7.4) and was completely inhibited by DCCD (10(-5) M). The basolateral membranes of the principal cells in frog skin epithelium were found to be spontaneously permeable to H+ and passive electrogenic H+ transport across this membrane was not affected by oxytocin. Lowering the pH of the basolateral bathing solution (pHb) produced an intracellular acidification and membrane depolarization (and an increase in conductance when the normal dominant K+ conductance of this membrane was abolished by Ba2+ 1 mM). These effects of low pHb were blocked by micromolar concentrations of heavy metals (Zn2+, Ni2+, Co2+, Cd2+, and Hg2+). Lowering pHb in the presence of oxytocin (50 mU/ml) produced a transepithelial current (3 microA.cm-2 at pHb 5.5) which was blocked by 100 microM of Hg2+, Zn2+, or Ni2+ at the basolateral side, and by DCCD (10(-5) M) or Hg2+ (100 microM) from the apical side. The net hydroosmotic water flux (JH2O) induced by oxytocin in frog bladder sacs was blocked by inhibitors of H(+)-adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase). Diethylstilbestrol (DES 10(-5) M), oligomycin (10(-8) M), and DCCD (10(-5) M) prevented JH2O when present in the lumen. These effects cannot be attributed to inhibition of metabolism since cyanide (10(-4) M), or 2-deoxyglucose (10(-3) M) had no effect on JH2O.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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