Proton channels, plasma membrane potential, and respiratory burst in human neutrophils

Eur J Haematol. 1993 Nov;51(5):309-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0609.1993.tb01613.x.


When confronted with invading microorganisms, neutrophils undergo a number of nearly synchronous reactions including the generation of microbicidal reactive oxygen intermediates by the NADPH oxidase. These reactions are accompanied by a slow depolarization, from resting values of-60 mV to levels probably exceeding 0 mV. The depolarization is transient, indicating that a compensatory charge transport mechanism is activated. Activation of the oxidase system causes a massive burst of metabolic acid generation that would, if uncompensated, lower the intracellular pH of neutrophils by over 5 units, to lethal levels (pH = 2). Neutrophils must therefore possess particularly effective regulatory systems to avoid excessive cytosolic acidification. The recently described H+ conductance of neutrophils may counteract both the acidification and the depolarization. Activation of the H+ conductance occurs at depolarizing voltages and is promoted by cytosolic acidification, a combination that takes place during the respiratory burst. The NADPH oxidase of neutrophils is thus associated to an unusual, particularly efficient mechanism of H+ export and charge compensation. The sequential activation of these two systems causes neutrophils to depolarize through the activation of an electron transport chain, and to repolarize through the activation of a H+ conductance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neutrophils / physiology*
  • Proton Pumps / physiology*
  • Respiratory Burst*


  • Proton Pumps