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Even though net fluxes of Pi (orthophosphate) across the cell membrane may be important in clinical disorders involving the abnormal extracellular Pi concentration, in acid-base disturbances, and in the responses of some cells to hormones, relatively few studies have been made of these fluxes, owing to the complexities of interpretation. Here we have studied net fluxes in response to changes in extracellular pH and Pi concentration in the simple case of the human red cell. The permeability of the cell membrane to net Pi fluxes was described in terms of a first-order rate constant, epsilon. By means of a mathematical model, it was possible to discriminate between transmembrane Pi movement, net intracellular generation or consumption of Pi by organic phosphates, and extracellular generation of Pi from the cells lysing during the experiment. We show that net Pi influx into the cell during experimental alkalosis was probably driven by net consumption of Pi by organic phosphates, and that this was reversed during acidosis. Inhibition of net Pi influx by 4-acetamido-4'-isothiocyanatostilbene-2,2'-disulphonate (SITS) suggests that, like Pi self-exchange, net influx is at least partly mediated by the band 3 transport protein. Unexpectedly, epsilon increased from 2 h-1 at extracellular pH 7.4 to approx. 7 h-1 at pH 7.8. From the value of epsilon at pH 7.4, we conclude that the apparent buffering or regulation of steady-state Pi concentrations, previously reported in red cells in vitro, was not an artifact of intracellular generation of Pi from organic phosphates.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochim biophys acta

Publication Date





148 - 157


Erythrocyte Membrane, Hematocrit, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Kinetics, Mathematics, Models, Theoretical, Phosphates