Chloride channels: often enigmatic, rarely predictable

Annu Rev Physiol. 2010:72:95-121. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-021909-135811.


Until recently, anion (Cl(-)) channels have received considerably less attention than cation channels. One reason for this may be that many Cl(-) channels perform functions that might be considered cell-biological, like fluid secretion and cell volume regulation, whereas cation channels have historically been associated with cellular excitability, which typically happens more rapidly. In this review, we discuss the recent explosion of interest in Cl(-) channels, with special emphasis on new and often surprising developments over the past five years. This is exemplified by the findings that more than half of the ClC family members are antiporters, and not channels, as was previously thought, and that bestrophins, previously prime candidates for Ca(2+)-activated Cl(-) channels, have been supplanted by the newly discovered anoctamins and now hold a tenuous position in the Cl(-) channel world.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Channelopathies / physiopathology*
  • Chloride Channels / classification
  • Chloride Channels / drug effects
  • Chloride Channels / genetics
  • Chloride Channels / physiology*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Physiology / history


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Chloride Channels