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Passive H(+)-ion mobility within eukaryotic cells is low, due to H(+)-ion binding to cytoplasmic buffers. A localized intracellular acidosis can therefore persist for seconds or even minutes. Because H(+)-ions modulate so many biological processes, spatial intracellular pH (pH(i))-regulation becomes important for coordinating cellular activity. We have investigated spatial pH(i)-regulation in single and paired ventricular myocytes from rat heart by inducing a localized intracellular acid-load, while confocally imaging pH(i) using the pH-fluorophore, carboxy-SNARF-1. We present a novel method for localizing the acid-load. This involves the intracellular photolytic uncaging of H(+)-ions from a membrane-permeant acid-donor, 2-nitrobenzaldehyde. The subsequent spatial pH(i)-changes are consistent with intracellular H(+)-mobility and cell-to-cell H(+)-permeability constants measured using more conventional acid-loading techniques. We use the method to investigate the effect of reducing pH(i) on intrinsic (non-CO(2)/HCO(3)(-) buffer-dependent) and extrinsic (CO(2)/HCO(3)(-) buffer-dependent) components of H(i)(+)-mobility. We find that although both components mediate spatial regulation of pH within the cell, their ability to do so declines sharply at low pH(i). Thus acidosis severely slows intracellular H(+)-ion movement. This can result in spatial pH(i) nonuniformity, particularly during the stimulation of sarcolemmal Na(+)-H(+) exchange. Intracellular acidosis thus presents a window of vulnerability in the spatial coordination of cellular function.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





641 - 653


Animals, Cells, Cultured, Heart Ventricles, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Myocytes, Cardiac, Photolysis, Protons, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley