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After the addition of valinomycin into the incubation medium, the potassium content of rat erythrocytes rapidly decreases. The rate-limiting step of this reaction is a unidirectional efflux of anions through band 3 protein. The rate of this efflux in erythrocytes of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) of the Wistar-Kyoto strain, is not altered.The loss of KCI by rat erythrocytes is accompanied by a decrease in intracellular water, cell shrinking and activation of Na+-H+i exchange. The rate of Na+-H+ exchange in the erythrocytes of SHR in the pre-hypertensive stage (4 weeks old) was decreased by 30%. There were no differences between 14-week-old and 28-week-old SHR and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats.The half-maximal increase of the valinomycin-induced Na+-H+ exchange in erythrocytes of 14-week-old WKY and SHR was observed at KCI concentrations in the incubation medium of 25 and 40 mmol, respectively. The addition of activators of protein kinase A (dibutyryl-cAMP) or protein kinase C (β-phorbol ester) resulted in an increase in the maximal rate of Na+-H+ exchange, and did not modify its dependence on K+0 concentration.In all groups of SHR, the rate of valinomycin-induced H+ efflux from erythrocytes in the sodium-free medium was 1.5–2.5-fold higher than in age-matched WKY. Under these conditions (addition of valinomycin and inhibition of Na+-H+ exchange), haemoglobin release from erythrocytes of SHR, treated with hypotonic solution, was significantly decreased. We conclude that these differences are due to the alteration of the skeleton protein organization in the erythrocyte membranes of SHR. No differences in these parameters between MNS and MHS were observed.