Human and dog erythrocytes: relationship between cellular ATP levels, ATP consumption and potassium concentrations

Physiol Chem Phys Med NMR. 1992;24(1):11-20.


The intracellular K+/Na+ ratio of various mammalian cell types are known to differ remarkably. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that erythrocytes of different mammalian species contain entirely different potassium and sodium concentrations. The human erythrocyte is an example of the supposedly "normal" high potassium cell, while the dog erythrocyte contains ten times more sodium than potassium ions (Table I). Furthermore, this difference is sustained despite the plasma sodium and potassium concentrations being almost identical in both species (high Na+ and low K+). In spite of these inorganic ion differences, both human and dog erythrocytes contain 33% dry material (mostly Hb) and 67% water. Conventional cell theory would couple cellular volume regulation with Na+ and K+ dependent ATPase activity which is believed to control intracellular Na+/K+ concentrations. Since the high Na+ and low K+ contents of dog erythrocytes are believed to be due to the lack of the postulated Na/K-ATPase enzyme, they must presumably have an alternative mechanism of volume regulation, otherwise current ideas of membrane ATPase activity coupled volume regulation need serious reconsideration. The object of our investigation was to explore the relationship between ATPase activity, ATP levels and the Na+/K+ concentrations in human and dog erythrocytes. Our results indicate that the intracellular ATP level in erythrocytes correspond with their K+, Na+ content. They are discussed in relation to conventional membrane transport theory and also to Ling's "association-induction hypothesis", the latter proving to be a more useful basis on which to interpret results.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / blood*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cricetinae
  • Dogs
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mesocricetus
  • Potassium / blood*
  • Sheep
  • Sodium / blood
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / blood
  • Species Specificity
  • Swine


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Sodium
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase
  • Potassium