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Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2015 Apr;213(4):868-81. doi: 10.1111/apha.12450. Epub 2015 Jan 28.

The identification of a volume-regulated anion channel: an amazing Odyssey.

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Section for Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The volume-regulated anion channel (VRAC) plays a pivotal role in cell volume regulation in essentially all cell types studied. Additionally, VRAC appears to contribute importantly to a wide range of other cellular functions and pathological events, including cell motility, cell proliferation, apoptosis and excitotoxic glutamate release in stroke. Although biophysically, pharmacologically and functionally thoroughly described, VRAC has until very recently remained a genetic orphan. The search for the molecular identity of VRAC has been long and has yielded multiple potential candidates, all of which eventually turned out to have properties not fully compatible with those of VRAC. Recently, two groups have independently identified the protein leucine-rich repeats containing 8A (LRRC8A), belonging to family of proteins (LRRC8A-E) distantly related to pannexins, as the likely pore-forming subunit of VRAC. In this brief review, we summarize the history of the discovery of VRAC, outline its basic biophysical and pharmacological properties, link these to several cellular functions in which VRAC appears to play important roles, and sketch the amazing search for the molecular identity of this channel. Finally, we describe properties of the LRRC8 proteins, highlight some features of the LRRC8A knockout mouse and discuss the impact of the discovery of LRRC8 as VRAC on future research.


SWELL1; cell swelling; leucine-rich repeats containing 8A; osmotic; regulatory volume decrease; volume sensitive outwardly rectifying anion channel; volume-sensitive organic osmolyte and anion channel

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