Proton-translocating, vacuolar-type ATPases, well known energizers of eukaryotic, vacuolar membranes, now emerge as energizers of many plasma membranes. Just as Na(+) gradients, imposed by Na(+)/K(+) ATPases, energize basolateral plasma membranes of epithelia, so voltage gradients, imposed by H(+) V-ATPases, energize apical plasma membranes. The energized membranes acidify or alkalinize compartments, absorb or secrete ions and fluids, and underwrite cellular homeostasis. V-ATPases acidify extracellular spaces of single cells such as phagocytes and osteoclasts and of polarized epithelia, such as vertebrate kidney and epididymis. They alkalinize extracellular spaces of lepidopteran midgut. V-ATPases energize fluid secretion by insect Malpighian tubules and fluid absorption by insect oocytes. They hyperpolarize external plasma membranes for Na(+) uptake by amphibian skin and fish gills. Indeed, it is likely that ion uptake by osmotically active membranes of all fresh water organisms is energized by V-ATPases. Awareness of plasma membrane energization by V-ATPases provides new perspectives for basic science and presents new opportunities for medicine and agriculture.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.