Chloride channels: an emerging molecular picture

Bioessays. 1997 Feb;19(2):117-26. doi: 10.1002/bies.950190206.


Chloride channels are probably found in every cell, from bacteria to mammals. Their physiological tasks range from cell volume regulation to stabilization of the membrane potential, signal transduction, transepithelial transport and acidification of intracellular organelles. These different functions require the presence of many distinct chloride channels, which are differentially expressed and regulated by various stimuli. These include various intracellular messengers (like calcium and cyclic AMP), pH, extracellular ligands and transmembrane voltage. Three major structural classes of chloride channels are known to date, but there may be others not yet identified. After an overview of the general functions of chloride channels, this review will focus on these cloned chloride channels: the CLC chloride channel family, which includes voltage-gated chloride channels, and the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR), which performs other functions in addition to being a chloride channel. Finally, a short section deals with GABA and glycine receptors. Diseases resulting from chloride channel defects will be specially emphasized, together with the somewhat limited information about how these proteins work at the molecular level.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chloride Channels / classification
  • Chloride Channels / physiology*
  • Humans


  • Chloride Channels