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The effects of hyperosmotic shock on intracellular pH (pHi) have been characterized in bovine articular chondrocytes. Osmotic shock is one of a variety of physicochemical stimuli experienced by chondrocytes upon cartilage loading. Cells were isolated from their extracellular matrix, and loaded with the pH-sensitive fluorophore 2',7'-bis(carboxyethyl)-5(6)-carboxyfluorescein. Hyperosmotic shocks were imposed by addition of KCl or sucrose to the extracellular medium. For cells at steady-state pHi, resuspension in hyperosmotic solutions elicited an alkalinization, which was significantly inhibited by removal of extracellular Na+ ions, or treatment with amiloride (1 mM) or HOE-694 (10 microM), both inhibitors of Na+ x H+ exchange. For cells acidified by ammonium rebound, recovery of pHi towards resting levels was significantly stimulated by exposure to hyperosmotic solutions, and the effect was again attenuated by inhibition of Na+ x H+ exchange. Determination of the rate of acid extrusion at different levels of acidification indicated that the affinity of acid extrusion systems for H+ ions was increased by hypertonic shock. The response to hyperosmotic media could be abolished by treatment of chondrocytes with the non-specific kinase inhibitor staurosporine (10 nM), while the phosphatase inhibitor okadaic acid (1 mM) was able to augment recovery rates to values similar to those measured under hyperosmotic conditions. The osmotic sensitivity of recovery was unaffected by exposure to the protein kinase C inhibitor calphostin C, but was abolished in cells treated with ML-7, a specific inhibitor of myosin light chain kinase. These results confirm that - as for other components of mechanical load - increased osmolarity can modulate the activity of Na+ x H+ exchange, in this case by altered patterns of phosphorylation of transporter-associated myosin. The changes of pHi which will result dictate in part the rate of cartilage macromolecule synthesis.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Physiol Scand

Publication Date





221 - 228


Amiloride, Animals, Cartilage, Articular, Cattle, Cells, Cultured, Chondrocytes, Enzyme Inhibitors, Fluoresceins, Guanidines, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Intracellular Fluid, Meglumine, Myosin-Light-Chain Kinase, Osmolar Concentration, Osmotic Pressure, Protein Kinase C, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Sodium, Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers, Sucrose, Sulfones