Role of Aquaporin Water Channels in Kidney and Lung

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Several aquaporin-type water channels are expressed in mammalian kidney and lung: AQP1 in lung microvessels and kidney proximal tubule, thin descending limb of Henle, and vasa recta; AQP2 in apical membrane of collecting duct epithelium; AQP3 and AQP4 in basolateral membranes of airway and collecting duct epithelium; and AQP5 in alveolar epithelium. Novel quantitative fluorescence methods demonstrated very high water permeabilities of the alveolar epithelial and endothelial barriers, and moderately high water permeability across distal airways. In the kidney, water permeability is high in proximal tubule and thin descending limb of Henle, and regulated by vasopressin in collecting duct. The author's laboratory has studied the role of aquaporins in organ physiology using transgenic knockout mice lacking specific aquaporins. AQP1 null mice are mildly growth-retarded, manifest a severe urinary concentrating defect, and have reduced water permeability between air-space and capillary compartments. AQP4 null mice appear normal grossly except for a mild defect in maximum urinary concentrating ability. AQP2-deficient humans have hereditary non-X-linked nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI). In transfected mammalian cells, many NDI-causing AQP2 mutants are retained in the endoplasmic reticulum. The author's laboratory has found that "chemical chaperones," that is, small compounds that promote protein folding in vitro, are able to correct defective AQP2 trafficking in cell culture models. The transenic mouse and mammalian cell models are thus beginning to provide clues about the role of aquaporins in normal physiology and disease.

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