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Pflugers Arch. 2016 Mar;468(3):421-41. doi: 10.1007/s00424-015-1765-6. Epub 2015 Dec 1.

Volume-regulated anion channel--a frenemy within the brain.

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Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience, Albany Medical College, 47 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY, 12208, USA.


The volume-regulated anion channel (VRAC) is a ubiquitously expressed yet highly enigmatic member of the superfamily of chloride/anion channels. It is activated by cellular swelling and mediates regulatory cell volume decrease in a majority of vertebrate cells, including those in the central nervous system (CNS). In the brain, besides its crucial role in cellular volume regulation, VRAC is thought to play a part in cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration, and release of physiologically active molecules. Although these roles are not exclusive to the CNS, the relative significance of VRAC in the brain is amplified by several unique aspects of its physiology. One important example is the contribution of VRAC to the release of the excitatory amino acid neurotransmitters glutamate and aspartate. This latter process is thought to have impact on both normal brain functioning (such as astrocyte-neuron signaling) and neuropathology (via promoting the excitotoxic death of neuronal cells in stroke and traumatic brain injury). In spite of much work in the field, the molecular nature of VRAC remained unknown until less than 2 years ago. Two pioneer publications identified VRAC as the heterohexamer formed by the leucine-rich repeat-containing 8 (LRRC8) proteins. These findings galvanized the field and are likely to result in dramatic revisions to our understanding of the place and role of VRAC in the brain, as well as other organs and tissues. The present review briefly recapitulates critical findings in the CNS and focuses on anticipated impact on the LRRC8 discovery on further progress in neuroscience research.


Astrocytes; Cell volume regulation; Central nervous system; LRRC8; Neurons; VRAC

[Available on 2017-03-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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