To survive, cells have to avoid excessive alterations of cell volume that jeopardize structural integrity and constancy of intracellular milieu. The function of cellular proteins seems specifically sensitive to dilution and concentration, determining the extent of macromolecular crowding. Even at constant extracellular osmolarity, volume constancy of any mammalian cell is permanently challenged by transport of osmotically active substances across the cell membrane and formation or disappearance of cellular osmolarity by metabolism. Thus cell volume constancy requires the continued operation of cell volume regulatory mechanisms, including ion transport across the cell membrane as well as accumulation or disposal of organic osmolytes and metabolites. The various cell volume regulatory mechanisms are triggered by a multitude of intracellular signaling events including alterations of cell membrane potential and of intracellular ion composition, various second messenger cascades, phosphorylation of diverse target proteins, and altered gene expression. Hormones and mediators have been shown to exploit the volume regulatory machinery to exert their effects. Thus cell volume may be considered a second message in the transmission of hormonal signals. Accordingly, alterations of cell volume and volume regulatory mechanisms participate in a wide variety of cellular functions including epithelial transport, metabolism, excitation, hormone release, migration, cell proliferation, and cell death.
Useful keywords (using NLM MeSH Indexing)
Cell Physiological Phenomena*