A pinboard by
Erin Walch

Graduate Student, UC Riverside


Cells swell. Seizures happen. Is VRAC mediating this excitability?

The process of cell swelling, as during brain edema, mediates the development of seizures. When we can control this swelling, seizures stop! Now what we don't know are the special cells and molecular mechanisms that mediate this cell volume and excitability relationship. I am interested in how a certain channel found in the membranes of brain cells called astrocytes, release a chemical called glutamate. What does this glutamate do, and where does it go in the moments before a seizure? Inquiring minds want to know!


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

Abstract: 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.

Pub.: 27 Oct '06, Pinned: 16 Sep '17

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

Abstract: 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.

Pub.: 31 Aug '14, Pinned: 16 Sep '17

Osmotic Edema Rapidly Increases Neuronal Excitability Through Activation of NMDA Receptor-Dependent Slow Inward Currents in Juvenile and Adult Hippocampus.

Abstract: Cellular edema (cell swelling) is a principal component of numerous brain disorders including ischemia, cortical spreading depression, hyponatremia, and epilepsy. Cellular edema increases seizure-like activity in vitro and in vivo, largely through nonsynaptic mechanisms attributable to reduction of the extracellular space. However, the types of excitability changes occurring in individual neurons during the acute phase of cell volume increase remain unclear. Using whole-cell patch clamp techniques, we report that one of the first effects of osmotic edema on excitability of CA1 pyramidal cells is the generation of slow inward currents (SICs), which initiate after approximately 1 min. Frequency of SICs increased as osmolarity decreased in a dose-dependent manner. Imaging of real-time volume changes in astrocytes revealed that neuronal SICs occurred while astrocytes were still in the process of swelling. SICs evoked by cell swelling were mainly nonsynaptic in origin and NMDA receptor-dependent. To better understand the relationship between SICs and changes in neuronal excitability, recordings were performed in increasingly physiological conditions. In the absence of any added pharmacological reagents or imposed voltage clamp, osmotic edema induced excitatory postsynaptic potentials and burst firing over the same timecourse as SICs. Like SICs, action potentials were blocked by NMDAR antagonists. Effects were more pronounced in adult (8-20 weeks old) compared with juvenile (P15-P21) mice. Together, our results indicate that cell swelling triggered by reduced osmolarity rapidly increases neuronal excitability through activation of NMDA receptors. Our findings have important implications for understanding nonsynaptic mechanisms of epilepsy in relation to cell swelling and reduction of the extracellular space.

Pub.: 23 Oct '15, Pinned: 16 Sep '17