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LRRC8A protein is indispensable for swelling-activated and ATP-induced release of excitatory amino acids in rat astrocytes.


In mammals, cellular swelling activates release of small organic osmolytes, including the excitatory amino acids (EAA) glutamate and aspartate, via a ubiquitously expressed volume-regulated chloride/anion channel (VRAC). Pharmacological evidence suggests that VRAC plays plural physiological and pathological roles, including excitotoxic release of glutamate in stroke. However, the molecular identity of this pathway was unknown. Two recent studies discovered that LRRC8 gene family members encode heteromeric VRAC composed of LRRC8A plus LRRC8B-E, which mediate swelling-activated Cl(-) currents and taurine release in human non-neural cells (Z. Qiu et al. Cell 157: 447, 2014; F.K. Voss et al. Science 344: 634, 2014). Here, we tested the contribution of LRRC8A to the EAA release in brain glia. We detected and quantified expression levels of LRRC8A-E in primary rat astrocytes with quantitative RT-PCR and then downregulated LRRC8A with gene-specific siRNAs. In astrocytes exposed to hypo-osmotic media, LRRC8A knockdown dramatically reduced swelling-activated release of the EAA tracer D-[(3)H]aspartate. In parallel HPLC assays, LRRC8A siRNA prevented hypo-osmotic media-induced loss of the endogenous intracellular L-glutamate and taurine. Furthermore, downregulation of LRRC8A completely ablated the ATP-stimulated release of D-[(3)H]aspartate and [(14)C]taurine from non-swollen astrocytes. Overall, these data indicate that LRRC8A is an indispensable component of a permeability pathway that mediates both swelling-activated and agonist-induced amino acid release in brain glial cells.