Aquaporin-1-facilitated keratocyte migration in cell culture and in vivo corneal wound healing models

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Aquaporin-1 (AQP1) water channels are expressed in corneal keratocytes, which become activated and migrate following corneal wounding. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of AQP1 in keratocyte migration. Keratocyte primary cell cultures from wildtype and AQP1-null mice were compared, as well as keratocyte cultures from pig cornea in which AQP1 expression was modulated by RNAi knockdown and adenovirus-mediated overexpression. AQP1 expression was found in a plasma membrane pattern in corneal stromal and cultured keratocytes. Osmotic water permeability, as measured by calcein fluorescence quenching, was AQP1-dependent in cultured keratocytes, as was keratocyte migration following a scratch wound. Keratocyte migration in vivo was compared in wildtype and AQP1 knockout mice by histology and immunofluorescence of corneal sections at different times after partial-thickness corneal stromal debridement. AQP1 expression in keratocytes was increased by 24 h after corneal debridement. Wound healing and keratocyte appearance near the wound margin were significantly reduced in AQP1 knockout mice, and the number of neutrophils was increased. These results implicate AQP1 water permeability as a new determinant of keratocyte migration in cornea.

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