Intracellular ion activities (aion) and basolateral membrane potential (Vbl) were measured in Malpighian tubule cells of Rhodnius prolixus using double-barrelled ion-selective microelectrodes. In saline containing 103mmoll-1Na+, 6mmoll-1 K+ and 93mmoll-1Cl-, intracellular ion activities in unstimulated upper Malpighian tubules were 21, 86 and 32mmoll-1, respectively. In serotonin-stimulated tubules, aCl was unchanged, whereas aNa increased to 33mmoll-1 and aK declined to 71mmoll-1. Vbl was -59mV and -63mV for unstimulated and stimulated tubules, respectively. Calculated electrochemical potentials(Δμ/F) favour passive movement of Na+ into the cell and passive movement of Cl- out of the cell in both unstimulated and serotonin-stimulated tubules. Passive movement of K+ out of the cell is favoured in unstimulated tubules. In stimulated tubules, Δμ/F for K+ is close to 0 mV.
The thermodynamic feasibilities of Na+-K+-2Cl-, Na+-Cl-and K+-Cl- cotransporters were evaluated by calculating the net electrochemical potential (Δμnet/F) for each transporter. Our results show that a Na+-K+-2Cl- or a Na+-Cl- cotransporter but not a K+-Cl- cotransporter would permit the movement of ions into the cell in stimulated tubules. The effects of Ba2+ and ouabain on Vbl and rates of fluid and ion secretion show that net entry of K+ through ion channels or the Na+/K+-ATPase can be ruled out in stimulated tubules. Maintenance of intracellular Cl- activity was dependent upon the presence of both Na+ and K+ in the bathing saline. Bumetanide reduced the fluxes of both Na+ and K+. Taken together, the results support the involvement of a basolateral Na+-K+-2Cl- cotransporter in serotonin-stimulated fluid secretion by Rhodnius prolixus Malpighian tubules.