Article quick-view

Functional down-regulation of volume-regulated anion channels in AQP4 knockdown cultured rat cortical astrocytes.


In the brain, the astroglial syncytium is crucially involved in the regulation of water homeostasis. Accumulating evidence indicates that a dysregulation of the astrocytic processes controlling water homeostasis has a pathogenetic role in several brain injuries. Here, we have analysed by RNA interference technology the functional interactions occurring between the most abundant water channel in the brain, aquaporin-4 (AQP4), and the swelling-activated Cl(-) current expressed by cultured rat cortical astrocytes. We show that in primary cultured rat cortical astrocytes transfected with control small interfering RNA (siRNA), hypotonic shock promotes an increase in cellular volume accompanied by augmented membrane conductance mediated by volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC). Conversely, astroglia in which AQP4 was knocked down (AQP4 KD) by transfection with AQP4 siRNA changed their morphology from polygonal to process-bearing, and displayed normal cell swelling but reduced VRAC activity. Pharmacological manipulations of actin cytoskeleton in rat astrocytes, and functional analysis in mouse astroglial cells, which retain their morphology upon knockdown of AQP4, suggest that stellation of AQP4 KD rat cortical astrocytes was not causally linked to reduction of VRAC current. Molecular analysis of possible candidates of swelling-activated Cl(-) current provided evidence that in AQP4 KD astrocytes, there was a down-regulation of chloride channel-2 (CIC-2), which, however, was not involved in VRAC conductance. Inclusion of ATP in the intracellular saline restored VRAC activity upon hypotonicity. Collectively, these results support the view that in cultured astroglial cells, plasma membrane proteins involved in cell volume homeostasis are assembled in a functional platform.