A series of experiments were conducted to examine the role of Ca2+ in modulating the fluidity of rat small- and large-intestinal antipodal plasma membranes and their liposomes. This bivalent cation was found to decrease the fluidity of these preparations in a complex manner involving at least two distinct mechanisms. The first appeared to be a direct effect of Ca2+ on fluidity, was readily reversible by addition of EGTA and presumably involved binding of Ca2+ to anionic sites in the lipid bilayers of these membranes. This effect was seen with all preparations examined. In contrast, the second effect of Ca2+ on fluidity was only seen in intact small-intestinal brush-border membranes, appeared to be indirect, was time- and cation-dependent, was only minimally reversible by addition of EGTA, and appeared to involve stimulation of membrane-bound enzymes which altered this membrane's fatty acid composition. Furthermore, regional differences in this latter effect of Ca2+ on brush-border membrane fluidity were also seen in these studies, i.e. proximal greater than distal small intestine.

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