We studied with biochemical and immunofluorescent techniques the interactions between the actin microfilament and tubulin microtubule cytoskeleton and Na+/Pi co-transport in opossum kidney cells, a line with proximal tubular characteristics. On brief (5 min) incubation of the cells with a low (0.1 mM) concentration of Pi, a rapid F-actin depolymerization takes place, which fails to occur in cells incubated under similar conditions with 1 mM Pi. The disassembly of actin microfilaments could be quantitatively expressed as a 33% increase in the ratio of monomeric G-actin to polymerized F-actin (G/F-actin ratio from 0.80±0.03 to 1.06±0.06, n = 28, P < 0.01), owing to a significant decrease in the latter. Under these conditions microfilaments were also markedly destabilized, as shown by their diminished resistance to graded cytochalasin B concentrations. In addition, incubation of opossum kidney cells with low Pi concentrations (0.1 mM) resulted within 5 min in a substantial depolymerization of microtubules, shown by immunofluorescence microscopy and measured as a 70.9±6.9% (n = 11, P < 0.01) decrement by immunoblot analysis. These changes, which occur only when extracellular Pi concentrations are kept low, seem to be related to a significant increase within 5 min in the rate of cellular Pi uptake by 25.5% under these conditions. The shifts in the dynamic equilibria between monomeric and polymerized actin and tubulin in response to cellular Pi uptake were transient, being fully reversible within 30 min. Moreover, the effect of Pi seemed to be specific because inhibition of its uptake by phosphonoformic acid blunted microtubular disassembly markedly. In contrast, measurement of Pi uptake in the presence of agents known to stabilize cytoskeletal structures showed a substantial decrease with phallacidin, which stabilizes microfilaments, whereas the microtubule stabilizer taxol had no apparent effect. These results indicate that acute alterations in the polymerization dynamics and stability of both microfilaments and microtubules are involved in the modulation of Na+/Pi co-transport and suggest important cytoskeletal participation in proximal tubular transport functions.

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