Simultaneous 23Na and 31P NMR spectra were obtained from a number of yeast suspensions. Prior to NMR spectroscopy, the yeast cells were Na-loaded: This replaced some of the intracellular K+ with Na+. These cells were also somewhat P-deficient in that they had no polyphosphate species visible in the 31P NMR spectrum. In the NMR experiments, the Na-loaded cells were suspended in media which contained inorganic phosphate, very low Na+, and a shift reagent for the Na+ NMR signal. The media differed as to whether dioxygen, glucose, or K+ was present individually or in combinations and as to whether the medium was buffered or not. The NMR spectra revealed that the cells always lost Na+ and gained phosphorus. However, the nature of the Na+ efflux time course and the P metabolism differed depending on the medium. The Na+ efflux usually proceeded linearly until the amount of Na+ extruded roughly equalled the amount of NH4+ and orthophosphate initially present in the medium (external phosphate was added as NH4H2P04). Thus, we presume this first phase reflects a Na+ for NH4+ exchange. The Na+ efflux then entered a transition phase, either slowing, ceasing, or transiently reversing, before resuming at about the same value as that of the first phase. We presume that this last phase involves the simultaneous extrusion of intracellular anions as reported in the literature. The phosphorus metabolism was much more varied. In the absence of exogenous glucose, the P taken up accumulated first as intracellular inorganic phosphate; otherwise, it accumulated first in the “sugar phosphate” pool. In most cases, at least some of the P left the sugar phosphate pool and entered the polyphosphate reservoir in the vacuole. However, this never happened until the phase probably representing Na+ for NH4+ exchange was completed, and the P in the polyphosphate pool never remained there permanently but always eventually reverted back to the sugar phosphate pool. These changes are interpreted in terms of hierarchical energy demands on the cells under the different conditions. In particular, the energy for the Na+ for NH4+ exchange takes precedence over that required to produce and store polyphosphate. This conclusion is supported by the fact that when the cells are “forced” to exchange K+, as well as NH4+, for Na+ (by the addition of 5 times as much K+ to the NH4+-containing medium), polyphosphates are never significantly formed, and the initial linear Na+ efflux phase persists possibly 6 times as long. The ultimate consumption of polyphosphate species probably occurs because (inorganic) phosphate is required for the metabolic processes which produce the anions for the Na+ anion coextrusion phase.
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