Physiological significance of volume-regulatory transporters

Am J Physiol. 1999 May;276(5):C995-C1011. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1999.276.5.C995.


Research over the past 25 years has identified specific ion transporters and channels that are activated by acute changes in cell volume and that serve to restore steady-state volume. The mechanism by which cells sense changes in cell volume and activate the appropriate transporters remains a mystery, but recent studies are providing important clues. A curious aspect of volume regulation in mammalian cells is that it is often absent or incomplete in anisosmotic media, whereas complete volume regulation is observed with isosmotic shrinkage and swelling. The basis for this may lie in an important role of intracellular Cl- in controlling volume-regulatory transporters. This is physiologically relevant, since the principal threat to cell volume in vivo is not changes in extracellular osmolarity but rather changes in the cellular content of osmotically active molecules. Volume-regulatory transporters are also closely linked to cell growth and metabolism, producing requisite changes in cell volume that may also signal subsequent growth and metabolic events. Thus, despite the relatively constant osmolarity in mammals, volume-regulatory transporters have important roles in mammalian physiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Cell Size / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / physiology
  • Sodium-Potassium-Chloride Symporters


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers
  • Sodium-Potassium-Chloride Symporters