Mechanical stress induces auto/paracrine ATP release from various cell types, but the mechanisms underlying this release are not well understood. Here we show that the release of ATP induced by hypotonic stress (HTS) in bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs) occurs through volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC). Various VRAC inhibitors, such as glibenclamide, verapamil, tamoxifen, and fluoxetine, suppressed the HTS-induced release of ATP, as well as the concomitant Ca2+ oscillations and NO production. They did not, however, affect Ca2+ oscillations and NO production induced by exogenously applied ATP. Extracellular ATP inhibited VRAC currents in a voltage-dependent manner: block was absent at negative potentials and was manifest at positive potentials, but decreased at highly depolarized potentials. This phenomenon could be described with a "permeating blocker model," in which ATP binds with an affinity of 1.0 ± 0.5 mM at 0 mV to a site at an electrical distance of 0.41 inside the channel. Bound ATP occludes the channel at moderate positive potentials, but permeates into the cytosol at more depolarized potentials. The triphosphate nucleotides UTP, GTP, and CTP, and the adenine nucleotide ADP, exerted a similar voltage-dependent inhibition of VRAC currents at submillimolar concentrations, which could also be described with this model. However, inhibition by ADP was less voltage sensitive, whereas adenosine did not affect VRAC currents, suggesting that the negative charges of the nucleotides are essential for their inhibitory action. The observation that high concentrations of extracellular ADP enhanced the outward component of the VRAC current in low Cl- hypotonic solution and shifted its reversal potential to negative potentials provides more direct evidence for the nucleotide permeability of VRAC. We conclude from these observations that VRAC is a nucleotide-permeable channel, which may serve as a pathway for HTS-induced ATP release in BAEC.
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