The volume-regulated anion channel (VRAC), also known as the volume-sensitive outwardly rectifying (VSOR) anion channel or the volume-sensitive organic osmolyte/anion channel (VSOAC), is essential for cell volume regulation after swelling in most vertebrate cell types studied to date. In addition to its role in cell volume homeostasis, VRAC has been implicated in numerous other physiological and pathophysiological processes, including cancer, ischemic brain edema, cell motility, proliferation, angiogenesis, programmed cell death, and excitotoxic glutamate release. Although VRAC has been extensively biophysically, pharmacologically, and functionally characterized, its molecular identity was highly controversial until the recent identification of the leucine-rich repeats containing 8A (LRRC8A) protein as essential for the VRAC current in multiple cell types and a likely pore-forming subunit of VRAC. Members of this distantly pannexin-1-related protein family form heteromers, and in addition to LRRC8A, at least another LRRC8 family member is required for the formation of a functional VRAC. This review summarizes the biophysical and pharmacological properties of VRAC, highlights its main physiological functions and pathophysiological implications, and outlines the search for its molecular identity.
Keywords: Cell swelling; Cell volume; LRRC8A; Osmotic; RVD; VRAC; VSOAC; VSOR.