We have explored the possibilities that cell volume is regulated by the status of microtubule assembly and cyclic AMP metabolism and may be coordinated with shape change. Treatment of J774.2 mouse macrophages with colchicine caused rapid microtubule disassembly and was associated with a striking increase (from 15-20 to more than 90 percent) in the proportion of cells with a large protuberance at one pole. This provided a simple experimental system in which shape changes occurred in virtually an entire cell population in suspension. Parallel changes in cell volume could then be quantified by isotope dilution techniques. We found that the shape change caused by colchicine was accompanied by a decrease in cell volume of approximately 20 percent. Nocodozole, but not lumicolchicine, caused identical changes in both cell shape and cell volume. The volume loss was not due to cell lysis nor to inhibition of pinocytosis.
The mechanism of volume loss was also examined. Colchicine induced a small but reproducible increase in activity of the ouabain-sensitive Na(+), K(+)-dependent ATPase. However, inhibition of this enzyme/transport system by ouabain did not change cell volume nor did it block the colchicines-induced decrease in volume. One the other hand, SITS (4'acetamido, 4-isothiocyano 2,2' disulfonic acid stilbene), an inhibitor of anion transport, inhibited the effects of colchicines, thus suggesting a role for an anion transport system in cell volume regulation.
Because colchicine is known to activate adenylate cyclase in several systems and because cell shape changes are often induced by hormones that elevate cyclic AMP, we also examined the effects of cyclic AMP on cell volume. Agents that act to increase syclic AMP (cholera toxin, which activates adenylate cyclase; IBMX, and inhibitor of phosphodiesterase; and dibutyryl cyclic AMP) all caused a volume decrease comparable to that of colchicine. To define the effective metabolic pathway, we studied two mutants of J774.2, one deficient in adenylate cyclase and the other exhibiting markedly reduced activity of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase. Cholera toxin did not produce a volume change in either mutant. Cyclic AMP produced a decrease in the cyclase-deficient line comparable to that in wild type, but did not cause a volume change in the kinase- deficient line. This analysis established separate roles for cyclic AMP and colchicine. The volume decrease induced by cyclic AMP requires the action of a cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase. Colchicine, on the other hand, induced a comparable volume change in both mutants and wild type, and thus does not require the kinase.