Biophysics and Structure-Function Relationships of LRRC8-Formed Volume-Regulated Anion Channels

Biophys J. 2019 Apr 2;116(7):1185-1193. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2019.02.014. Epub 2019 Feb 26.


Volume-regulated anion channels (VRACs) are key players in regulatory volume decrease of vertebrate cells by mediating the extrusion of chloride and organic osmolytes. They play additional roles in various physiological processes beyond their role in osmotic volume regulation. VRACs are formed by heteromers of LRRC8 proteins; LRRC8A (also called SWELL1) is an essential subunit that combines with any of its paralogs, LRRC8B-E, to form hexameric VRAC complexes. The subunit composition of VRACs determines electrophysiological characteristics of their anion transport such as single-channel conductance, outward rectification, and depolarization-dependent inactivation kinetics. In addition, differently composed VRACs conduct diverse substrates, such as LRRC8D enhancing VRAC permeability to organic substances like taurine or cisplatin. Here, after a recapitulation of the biophysical properties of VRAC-mediated ion and osmolyte transport, we summarize the insights gathered since the molecular identification of VRACs. We describe the recently solved structures of LRRC8 complexes and discuss them in terms of their structure-function relationships. These studies open up many potential avenues for future research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Domains


  • LRRC8A protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins