The mechanism of bicarbonate reabsorption in the proximal and distal tubules of the kidney

Floyd C. Rector, Norman W. Carter, Donald W. Seldin

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The mechanism of HCO3 reabsorption in proximal and distal tubules was examined in rats undergoing NaHCO3 diuresis. The steady-state intratubular pH was measured with pH-sensitive glass microelectrodes and compared with the equilibrium pH calculated from the HCO3~ concentration of the tubular fluid (measured with quinhydrone electrodes) and plasma Pco2. In the proximal tubule the intratubular pH and the equilibrium pH were identical, indicating no accumulation of excess H2COr After inhibition of carbonic anhydrase, however, intratubular pH was significantly lower (0.85 pH U) than the equilibrium pH. It was concluded that HCO3 reabsorption in the proximal tubule was mediated by H+ secretion, but that carbonic anhydrase located in the luminal membrane of the cell prevented H2CO3 from accumulating in the tubular fluid. In the distal tubule the intratubular pH was 0.85 U lower than the equilibrium pH. This difference could be obliterated by an intravenous injection of carbonic anhydrase. It was concluded that HCO3~ reabsorption in this segment was also accomplished by H+ secretion. The accumulation of excess H2CO3 in the tubular fluid indicated that, in contrast to the proximal tubule, carbonic anhydrase was not located in the luminal membrane of distal tubular cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1134-1145
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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