The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 201, Issue 3, pp 109–137

Regulation of K-Cl Cotransport: from Function to Genes

Topical Review

DOI: 10.1007/s00232-004-0695-6

Cite this article as:
Adragna, N., Fulvio, M.D. & Lauf, P. J Membrane Biol (2004) 201: 109. doi:10.1007/s00232-004-0695-6


This review intends to summarize the vast literature on K-Cl cotransport (COT) regulation from a functional and genetic viewpoint. Special attention has been given to the signaling pathways involved in the transporter’s regulation found in several tissues and cell types, and more specifically, in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). The number of publications on K-Cl COT has been steadily increasing since its discovery at the beginning of the 1980s, with red blood cells (RBCs) from different species (human, sheep, dog, rabbit, guinea pig, turkey, duck, frog, rat, mouse, fish, and lamprey) being the most studied model. Other tissues/cell types under study are brain, kidney, epithelia, muscle/smooth muscle, tumor cells, heart, liver, insect cells, endothelial cells, bone, platelets, thymocytes and Leishmania donovani. One of the salient properties of K-Cl-COT is its activation by cell swelling and its participation in the recovery of cell volume, a process known as regulatory volume decrease (RVD). Activation by thiol modification with N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) has spawned investigations on the redox dependence of K-Cl COT, and is used as a positive control for the operation of the system in many tissues and cells. The most accepted model of K-Cl COT regulation proposes protein kinases and phosphatases linked in a chain of phosphorylation/dephosphorylation events. More recent studies include regulatory pathways involving the phosphatidyl inositol/protein kinase C (PKC)-mediated pathway for regulation by lithium (Li) in low-K sheep red blood cells (LK SRBCs), and the nitric oxide (NO)/cGMP/protein kinase G (PKG) pathway as well as the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-mediated mechanism in VSMCs. Studies on VSM transfected cells containing the PKG catalytic domain demonstrated the participation of this enzyme in K-Cl COT regulation. Commonly used vasodilators activate K-Cl COT in a dose-dependent manner through the NO/cGMP/PKG pathway. Interaction between the cotransporter and the cytoskeleton appears to depend on the cellular origin and experimental conditions. Pathophysiologically, K-Cl COT is altered in sickle cell anemia and neuropathies, and it has also been proposed to play a role in blood pressure control. Four closely related human genes code for KCCs (KCC1-4). Although considerable information is accumulating on tissue distribution, function and pathologies associated with the different isoforms, little is known about the genetic regulation of the KCC genes in terms of transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation. A few reports indicate that the NO/cGMP/PKG signaling pathway regulates KCC1 and KCC3 mRNA expression in VSMCs at the post-transcriptional level. However, the detailed mechanisms of post-transcriptional regulation of KCC genes and of regulation of KCC2 and KCC4 mRNA expression are unknown. The K-Cl COT field is expected to expand further over the next decades, as new isoforms and/or regulatory pathways are discovered and its implication in health and disease is revealed.


K-Cl cotransportErythrocytesVascular smooth muscle cellsKCC genomic organization and expressionSignal transduction

Copyright information

© Springer 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Pharmacology and ToxicologyWright State University, School of MedicineDaytonUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Anatomy and PhysiologyWright State University, School of MedicineDaytonUSA
  3. 3.Departments of PathologyWright State University, School of MedicineDaytonUSA