Anion channels in astrocytes: biophysics, pharmacology, and function

Glia. 2006 Nov 15;54(7):747-57. doi: 10.1002/glia.20423.


The chloride/anion channels that have been so far identified in cultured astrocytes and those that have been confirmed in situ by a combination of mRNA identification, immunocytochemistry, and biophysical studies are reviewed. It is emphasized that we are just beginning to describe such channels and analyze their functions in astrocytes. The best-studied anion channels studied so far are those known as volume-regulated anion channels (VRACs). These, as for most channels, have been mainly studied in cultured astrocytes, but some correlative studies have been done in situ, because these channels have been emphasized as release routes for transmitters; namely, excitatory amino acids and ATP. They are activated by cell shape changes and cell swelling, and the release of amino acids and ATP and chloride currents, measured by whole cell clamping, by these processes has been well described, as is also their activation by low concentrations of extracellular ATP. However, the identity of these channels in astrocytes, as in all other cells, remains elusive. The potential involvement of VRACs in pathological states such as stroke, metastasis, and spreading depression is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Chloride Channels / metabolism
  • Excitatory Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channels / metabolism*


  • Chloride Channels
  • Excitatory Amino Acids
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channels
  • Adenosine Triphosphate