The operation of the sodium pump of giant axons of the squid, Loligo pealei, has been studied simultaneously in two independent ways: 1) by measuring sodium efflux with 22Na, and 2) by calculating the transmembrane current generated by the pump from measurements of membrane resistance and digitalis-sensitive membrane potential. In normal, untreated axons, the effect of increasing the external potassium concentration on both sodium efflux and pump current is similar, which suggests that Na:K pump stoichiometry remains relatively constant in the range of 0-20 mM external K. The data are compatible with a 3:2 Na:K ratio. In axons whose intracellular ADP level has been elevated by injection of L-arginine, a large, electrically silent, cardiotonic steroid-sensitive sodium efflux takes place in the absence of external potassium; this suggests that pump-mediated Na:Na exchange is 1:1 or electroneutral. Finally, elevation of external potassium levels causes the appearance, in high-ADP axons, of electrogenic pumping, with little effect on sodium efflux; hence, in contrast to what is seen in normal (low-ADP) axons, the charge translocated, per sodium ion extruded, increases sharply with increasing extracellular potassium levels.
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