Studies on proton and Na+ transport by isolated intestinal and renal brush-border-membrane vesicles were carried out to test for the presence of an Na+/H+-exchange system. Proton transport was evaluated as proton transfer from the intravesicular space to the incubation medium by monitoring pH changes in the membrane suspension induced by sudden addition of cations. Na+ transport was determined as Na+ uptake into the vesicles by filtration technique. A sudden addition of sodium salts (but not choline) to the membrane suspension provokes an acidification of the incubation medium which is abolished by the addition of 0.5% Triton X-100. Pretreatment of the membranes with Triton X-100 prevents the acidification. The acidification is also not observed if the [K+] and proton conductance of the membranes have been increased by the simultaneous addition of valinomycin and carbonyl cyanide p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone to the K+-rich incubation medium. Either valinomycin or carbonyl cyanide p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone when added alone do not alter the response of the membranes to the addition of Na+. Na+ uptake by brush-border microvilli is enhanced in the presence of a proton gradient directed from the intravesicular space to the incubation medium. Under these conditions a transient accumulation of Na+ inside the vesicles is observed. It is concluded that intestinal and renal brush-border membranes contain a NA+/H+ antiport system which catalyses an electroneutral exchange of Na+ against protons and consequently can produce a proton gradient in the presence of a concentration difference for Na+. This system might be involved in the active proton secretion of the small intestine and the proximal tubule of the kidney.

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