The blood-sucking insect Rhodnius prolixus rapidly eliminates a Na+-rich K+-poor urine after its large meals. K+-rich fluid is first secreted by the upper Malpighian tubules and passes to the lower tubules where most of the potassium is reabsorbed.
During the initial stimulation of the tubules, the lower tubules must be activated first to avoid loss of potassium. The major element in this is that they respond more rapidly than do the upper tubules to particular hormonal concentrations rather than that they react to lower hormonal concentrations than do the upper tubules.
During subsequent diuresis, regulation of the haemolymph potassium concentration depends on three cooperative homoeostatic mechanisms in the tubules. A fall in potassium concentration of the medium bathing the tubules causes (i) a decrease in the rate of fluid secretion by the upper tubules, (ii) a decrease in potassium concentration in the fluid secreted by the upper tubules and (iii) an increase in the rate of potassium absorption by the lower tubules. The tubules respond in the opposite direction to an increase in potassium concentration of the medium. As a result, the potassium concentration of the urine can be adjusted to match the potassium concentration of the fluids absorbed from the gut, so that the potassium concentration of the insect’s haemolymph remains unaltered.