CO2 permeability of the rat erythrocyte membrane and its inhibition.
We have studied the CO2 permeability of the erythrocyte membrane of the rat using a mass spectrometric method that employs 18 O-labelled CO2. The method yields, in addition, the intraerythrocytic carbonic anhydrase activity and the membrane HCO3- permeability. For normal rat erythrocytes, we find at 37 °C a CO2 permeability of 0.078 ± 0.015 cm/s, an intracellular carbonic anhydrase activity of 64,100, and a bicarbonate permeability of 2.1 × 10-3 cm/s. We studied whether the rat erythrocyte membrane possesses protein CO2 channels similar to the human red cell membrane by applying the potential CO2 channel inhibitors pCMBS, Dibac, phloretin, and DIDS. Phloretin and DIDS were able to reduce the CO2 permeability by up to 50%. Since these effects cannot be attributed to the lipid part of the membrane, we conclude that the rat erythrocyte membrane is equipped with protein CO2 channels that are responsible for at least 50% of its CO2 permeability.