Cells have to regulate their volume in order to survive. Moreover, it is now evident that cell volume per se and the membrane transport processes which regulate it, comprise an important signalling unit. For example, macromolecular synthesis, apoptosis, cell growth and hormone secretion are all influenced by the cellular hydration state. Therefore, a thorough understanding of volume-activated transport processes could lead to new strategies being developed to control the function and growth of both normal and cancerous cells. Cell swelling stimulates the release of ions such as K+ and Cl- together with organic osmolytes, especially the β-amino acid taurine. Despite being the subject of intense research interest, the nature of the volume-activated taurine efflux pathway is still a matter of controversy. On the one hand it has been suggested that osmosensitive taurine efflux utilizes volume-sensitive anion channels whereas on the other it has been proposed that the band 3 anion-exchanger is a swelling-induced taurine efflux pathway. This article reviews the evidence for and against a role of anion channels and exchangers in osmosensitive taurine transport. Furthermore, the distinct possibility that neither pathway is involved in taurine transport is highlighted. The putative relationship between swelling-induced taurine transport and volume-activated anionic amino acid, α-neutral amino acid and K+ transport is also examined.

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