In recent years, cation-chloride cotransporters (CCCs) have drawn attention in the medical neuroscience research. CCCs include the family of Na+-coupled Cl- importers (NCC, NKCC1, and NKCC2), K+-coupled Cl- exporters (KCCs), and possibly polyamine transporters (CCC9) and CCC interacting protein (CIP1). For decades, CCCs have been the targets of several commonly used diuretic drugs, including hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide, and bumetanide. Genetic mutations of NCC and NKCC2 cause congenital renal tubular disorders and lead to renal salt-losing hypotension, secondary hyperreninemia, and hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis. New studies reveal that CCCs along with their regulatory WNK (Kinase with no lysine (K)), and SPAK (Ste20-related proline-alanine-rich kinase)/OSR1(oxidative stress-responsive kinase-1) are essential for regulating cell volume and maintaining ionic homeostasis in the nervous system, especially roles of the WNK-SPAK-NKCC1 signaling pathway in ischemic brain injury and hypersecretion of cerebrospinal fluid in post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus. In addition, disruption of Cl- exporter KCC2 has an effect on synaptic inhibition, which may be involved in developing pain, epilepsy, and possibly some neuropsychiatric disorders. Interference with KCC3 leads to peripheral nervous system neuropathy as well as axon and nerve fiber swelling and psychosis. The WNK-SPAK/OSR1-CCCs complex emerges as therapeutic targets for multiple neurological diseases. This review will highlight these new findings.
Keywords: KCCs; NKCC1; WNK-SPAK/OSR1; brain edema; cell volume regulation; ischemic stroke.