Changes in 5′-nucleotidase activity were calculated on the basis of alterations in ATP, ADP, phosphocreatine, Pi, Mg2+, IMP and AMP, determined by using 31P n.m.r. spectroscopy and h.p.l.c., during isoprenaline infusion, graded hypoxia and graded underperfusion in isolated rat heart. Calculated activity changes were compared with the total efflux of purines (adenosine + inosine + hypoxanthine) in order to assess the involvement of various 5′-nucleotidases in formation of adenosine. Purine efflux exhibited an exponential relation with cytosolic [AMP] during isoprenaline infusion and hypoxia (r = 0.92 and 0.95 respectively), supporting allosteric activation of 5′-nucleotidase under these conditions. Purine efflux displayed a linear relation with cytosolic [AMP] during graded ischaemia (r = 0.96), supporting substrate regulation in the ischaemic heart. The calculated activities of membrane-bound ecto-5′-nucleotidase were similar to the observed relations between purine efflux and cytosolic [AMP] in all hearts. The calculated activities of the ATP-activated cytosolic and lysosomal enzymes and of the ATP-inhibited cytosolic 5′-nucleotidase could not explain the observed release of purines under the conditions examined. These results indicate that the kinetic characteristics of the membrane-bound ecto-enzyme are consistent with an important role in the formation of extracellular adenosine, whereas the characteristics of the other 5′-nucleotidases are inconsistent with roles in adenosine formation under the conditions of the present study.

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