Localization of aquaporin-1 water channel in glial cells of the human peripheral nervous system

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Abstract

The aquaporins (AQPs) are a family of water channel proteins with at least 13 mammalian members (AQPs 0–12) expressed in diverse fluid transporting tissues. AQP1, AQP4, and AQP9 have been identified in the central nervous system and demonstrated or proposed to play important roles in brain water homeostasis. Aquaporin expression in the peripheral nervous system is poorly studied. Here we report that the AQP1 water channel is specifically localized to glial cells of the peripheral nervous system by immunohistochemistry, RT-PCR, and immunoblotting. Paraffin-embedded biopsies of human pancreas, esophagus, and sciatic nerves were accessed by immunoperoxidase staining using affinity-purified AQP1, AQP4, and AQP9 antibodies. Strong AQP1 expression was identified in pancreatic nerve plexuses and in the submucosal and myenteric nerve plexuses in the esophagus. AQP1 was localized to the same cell population expressing glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), but not to the neurons in the plexuses, indicating glial cell-specific expression. RT-PCR and immunoblot analysis of microdissected pancreatic ganglia confirmed the expression of AQP1 transcript and protein. Pancreatic and sciatic nerve bundles, which contain nonmyelinating and myelinating Schwann cells, respectively, were also selectively labeled by AQP1 antibody. AQP4 and AQP9, which are broadly expressed in astroglial cells in brain and spinal cord, were not localized in glial cells in the peripheral nerve plexuses. These results suggest that AQPs are differentially expressed in the peripheral versus central nervous system and that channel-mediated water transport mechanisms may be involved in peripheral neuronal activity by regulating water homeostasis in nerve plexuses and bundles. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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