• chloride;
  • tissue culture;
  • brain edema


Cellular volume and potassium contents were determined in rat astrocytes from primary culture following suspension in isoosmotic (269 mOsm) and hypoosmotic (136 mOsm) phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) containing various potassium concentrations. Within 1 min of suspension in hypoosmotic PBS, cells swelled to 135% of their volume in isoosmotic PBS. This initial swelling was not altered by varying the potassium concentration of the hypoosmotic PBS. After suspension in hypoosmotic PBS containing 3.2 mM potassium, a regulatory volume decrease (RVD) was observed. Higher concentrations of potassium in hypoosmotic PBS inhibited RVD following osmotic swelling. Cells swollen in hypoosmotic PBS containing 50 mM potassium continued to swell for 7 min, reaching a volume of 141 % of their initial isoosmotic volume. After 7 min, these cells demonstrated a subsequent decrease in volume. The swelling observed between 1–7 min after suspension in hypoosmotic PBS containing 50 mM potassium was not affected by 10 μM gadolinium, 1 mM quinine, 1mM DIDS (4,4′-diisothiocyanato-2,2′-stilbenedisulfonic acid), 1 mM SITS (4-acetamido-4′-isothiocyanato-2,2′-stilbenedisulfonic acid), 1 mM furosemide, or 100 μM bumetanide. Normal RVD was obtained in hypoosmotic PBS containing 50 mM potassium, if chloride was replaced with gluconate (but not nitrate) to reduce the extracellular K-C1 product to that of hypoosmotic PBS containing 3.2 mM potassium. The volume decrease seen between 7–30 min after exposure to hypoosmotic PBS containing 50 mM potassium was blocked by 1 mM DIDS, 1 mM SITS, or 1 mM furosemide. Cellular potassium content was elevated by approximately 60% after 7 min exposure to isoosmotic or hypoosmotic PBS containing 50 mM potassium. In hypoosmotic PBS, this increase in cellular potassium was reduced with replacement of chloride by gluconate, but not by nitrate. The results indicate that astrocytes swollen in PBS containing elevated potassium concentrations continue to swell, in part, by accumulation of potassium plus chloride mediated by an approach to Donnan equilibrium. Cotransport carriers or stretch-activated channels do not play a role in the enhanced swelling observed in hypoosmotic PBS containing 50 mM potassium. We suggest that a voltage-sensitive chloride channel mediates this continuation of cell swelling. This mechanism may be important in the persistent swelling of astrocytes observed in pathologic conditions such as trauma and seizures where extracellular potassium is elevated, or when other factors are present which may cause astroglial depolarization. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.