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Pawel Swietach, Teresa Tiffert, Jakob M. A. Mauritz, Rachel Seear, Alessandro Esposito, Clemens F. Kaminski, Virgilio L. Lew and Richard D. Vaughan-Jones Hydrogen ion dynamics in human red blood cells The Journal of Physiology 588

Article first published online: 15 DEC 2010 | DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.197392

Red blood cells are essential for the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body. Their ability to carry these gases depends strongly on intracellular pH (acid-base balance). Using a pH-sensitive dye, we were able to study, for the first time, dynamic changes of pH inside individual red blood cells. Using this approach, we have characterised the physiological mechanisms that regulate red blood cell pH in response to acid/base disturbances. Proteins, called anion exchangers, swap bicarbonate (HCO3) for chloride anions across the cell membrane. These regulate the cell's pH. We show that the activity of these proteins underlies an important link between pH and cell volume, which has previously been predicted to occur in sickle-cell disease. We have extended our measurement system to sample pH from a large population of cells. These measurements will be useful for studying pH-related phenomena that occur in healthy or diseased red blood cells.

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