K+ concentrations were measured in vitro with K+ sensitive microelectrodes in the microclimate at the luminal cell surface of the colon of guinea pigs. The serosal K+ concentration was mostly 5.4 mmol/1, the mucosal K+ concentrations were changed (0, 5, 50, or 70 mmol/l). Under control conditions K+ concentrations in the microclimate of the proximal colon were also low (6-9 mmol/l) and rather independent from K+ concentrations in the bulk luminal solution. In the distal colon K+ concentrations in the microclimate increased from 3.7 mmol/l when no K+ was in the luminal solution, up to 22 mmol/l when the mucosal K+ concentrations was 70 mmol/l. Attempts to decrease K+ conductance of the apical membrane with Ba++, to impair K+ transport with ouabain and to increase the paracellular shunt with deoxycholic acid did not affect K+ concentrations in the microclimate of the proximal colon but decreased K+ concentrations in the distal colon. When valinomycin or triaminopyrimidine were added to the mucosal solution at high K+ concentrations in the luminal solutions the K+ concentration in the microclimate was raised. At low luminal K+ concentrations valinomycin had no effect, triaminopyrimidine significantly diminished K+ concentrations at the cell surface. Regional differences in paracellular shunt conductance and in the preepithelial diffusion barrier are thought to be responsible for the observed differences between the proximal and the distal colon. Obviously, however, further unknown mechanisms have to be involved.
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