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Osmotic Swelling Stimulates Ascorbate Efflux from Cerebral Astrocytes


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. J. X. Wilson at Department of Physiology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C1.


Abstract: Ascorbate (reduced vitamin C) is an important enzyme cofactor, neuromodulator, and antioxidant that is stored at millimolar concentrations in the cytosol of cerebral astrocytes. Because these cells swell during hyponatremia, cerebral ischemia, and trauma, we investigated the effects of osmotic stress on astrocytic transport of ascorbate. Ascorbate efflux from primary cultures of rat astrocytes was rapidly (within 1 min) increased by incubation in hypotonic medium. Efflux also increased when astrocytes, which had been adapted to a hypertonic environment, were swollen by transfer to isotonic medium. Swelling-induced ascorbate efflux was inhibited by the anion-transport inhibitors 4,4′-diisothiocyanostilbene-2,2′-disulfonic acid (DIDS) and 4,4′-dinitrostilbene-2,2′-disulfonic acid (DNDS). The pathway that mediates ascorbate efflux was found to be selective because a larger anion, 2′,7′-bis(carboxyethyl)-5-(or -6)-carboxyfluorescein (BCECF), was retained in the swollen astrocytes. Na+-dependent ascorbate uptake into astrocytes was inhibited slightly during the first minute of hypotonic stress, indicating that the sodium ascorbate cotransporter does not mediate swelling-induced efflux. Cell concentration of authentic ascorbate was measured by HPLC with electrochemical detection. When astrocytes were incubated in ascorbate-free medium, hypotonicity decreased cell ascorbate concentration by 50% within 3 min. When astrocytes were incubated in ascorbate-supplemented hypotonic medium, intracellular ascorbate concentration was restored within 10 min because uptake remained effective. Many pathological conditions cause brain cell swelling and formation of reactive oxygen species. Ascorbate release during astrocytic swelling may contribute to cellular osmoregulation in the short-term and the scavenging of reactive oxygen species.

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