Na+/H+ exchangers and the regulation of volume
The regulation of volume is fundamental to life. There exist numerous conditions that can produce perturbations of cell volume. The cell has developed mechanisms to directly counteract these perturbations so as to maintain its physiological volume. Directed influx of the major extracellular cation, sodium, serves to counteract a decreased cell volume through the subsequent osmotically coupled movement of water to the intracellular space. This process, termed regulatory volume increase is often mediated by the ubiquitous sodium/hydrogen ion exchanger, NHE1. Similarly, the maintenance of intravascular volume is essential for the maintenance of blood pressure and consequently the proper perfusion of vital organs. Numerous mechanisms exist to counterbalance alterations in intravascular volume, not the least of which is the renal absorption of sodium filtered at the glomerulus. Two-thirds of filtered sodium and water are absorbed in the renal proximal tubule, a mechanism that intimately involves the apical sodium/hydrogen ion exchanger, NHE3. This isoform is fundamental to the maintenance and regulation of intravascular volume and blood pressure. In this article, the effects of cell volume on the activity of these different isoforms, NHE1 and NHE3, will be described and the consequences of their activity on intracellular and intravascular volume will be explored.