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The effect of 4,4′-diisothiocyanato-stilbene-2,2′-disulfonate on CO2 permeability of the red blood cell membrane

The National Academy of Sciences
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  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology
  • Computer Science


It has long been assumed that the red cell membrane is highly permeable to gases because the molecules of gases are small, uncharged, and soluble in lipids, such as those of a bilayer. The disappearance of 12C18O16O from a red cell suspension as the 18O exchanges between labeled CO2 + HCO3− and unlabeled HOH provides a measure of the carbonic anhydrase (CA) activity (acceleration, or A) inside the cell and of the membrane self-exchange permeability to HCO3− (Pm,HCO−3). To test this technique, we added sufficient 4,4′-diisothiocyanato-stilbene-2,2′-disulfonate (DIDS) to inhibit all the HCO3−/Cl− transport protein (Band III or capnophorin) in a red cell suspension. We found that DIDS reduced Pm,HCO−3 as expected, but also appeared to reduce intracellular A, although separate experiments showed it has no effect on CA activity in homogenous solution. A decrease in Pm,CO2 would explain this finding. With a more advanced computational model, which solves for CA activity and membrane permeabilities to both CO2 and HCO3−, we found that DIDS inhibited both Pm,HCO−3 and Pm,CO2, whereas intracellular CA activity remained unchanged. The mechanism by which DIDS reduces CO2 permeability may not be through an action on the lipid bilayer itself, but rather on a membrane transport protein, implying that this is a normal route for at least part of red cell CO2 exchange.

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