From early unicellular organisms that formed in salty water environments to complex organisms that live on land away from water, cells have had to protect a homeostatic internal environment favorable to the biochemical reactions necessary for life. In this chapter, we will outline what steps were necessary to conserve the water within our cells and how mechanisms have evolved to maintain and regulate our cellular and organismal volume. We will first examine whole body water homeostasis and the relationship between kidney function, regulation of blood pressure, and blood filtration in the process of producing urine. We will then discuss how the composition of the lipid-rich bilayer affects its permeability to water and salts, and how the cell uses this differential to drive physiological and biochemical cellular functions. The capacity to maintain cell volume is vital to epithelial transport, neurotransmission, cell cycle, apoptosis, and cell migration. Finally, we will wrap up the chapter by discussing in some detail specific channels, cotransporters, and exchangers that have evolved to facilitate the movement of cations and anions otherwise unable to cross the lipid-rich bilayer and that are involved in maintaining or regulating cell volume.
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