The leucine rich repeat containing protein 8A (LRRC8A), or SWELL1, is an essential component of the volume-regulated anion channel (VRAC) that is activated by cell swelling and ionic strength. We report here for the first time to our knowledge its expression in a primary cell culture of nodose ganglia neurons and its localization in the soma, neurites, and neuronal membrane. We show that this neuronal VRAC/SWELL1 senses low external pH (pHo) in addition to hypoosmolarity. A robust sustained chloride current is seen in 77% of isolated nodose neurons following brief exposures to extracellular acid pH. Its activation involves proton efflux, intracellular alkalinity, and an increase in NOX-derived H2O2. The molecular identity of both the hypoosmolarity-induced and acid pHo–conditioned VRAC as LRRC8A (SWELL1) was confirmed by Cre-flox–mediated KO, shRNA-mediated knockdown, and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated LRRC8A deletion in HEK cells and in primary nodose neuronal cultures. Activation of VRAC by low pHo reduces neuronal injury during simulated ischemia and N-methyl-D-aspartate–induced (NMDA-induced) apoptosis. These results identify the VRAC (LRRC8A) as a dual sensor of hypoosmolarity and low pHo in vagal afferent neurons and define the mechanisms of its activation and its neuroprotective potential.
Runping Wang, Yongjun Lu, Susheel Gunasekar, Yanhui Zhang, Christopher J. Benson, Mark W. Chapleau, Rajan Sah, François M. Abboud