Cells need to regulate their volume to counteract osmotic swelling or shrinkage, as well as during cell division, growth, migration and cell death. Mammalian cells adjust their volume by transporting potassium, sodium, chloride and small organic osmolytes using plasma membrane channels and transporters. This generates osmotic gradients, which drive water in and out of cells. Key players in this process are volume-regulated anion channels (VRACs), the composition of which has recently been identified and shown to encompass LRRC8 heteromers. VRACs also transport metabolites and drugs and function in extracellular signal transduction, apoptosis and anticancer drug resistance.