Intracerebral VEGF injection highly upregulates AQP4 mRNA and protein in the perivascular space and glia limitans externa

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Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the industrialized nations. One of the consequences of stroke is blood–brain barrier (BBB) leakage and subsequent edema, which is one of the causes of mortality in this pathology. Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is the most abundant water channel in the brain. Studies in AQP4 knock-out mice have shown a prominent role of this water channel in edema development and resolution after ischemia. Here we have studied changes in AQP4 mRNA and protein expression in response to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a potent angiogenic factor. VEGF administration highly upregulated AQP4 mRNA and protein in the ventral midbrain. Perfusion of the animals with FITC-albumin prior to sacrifice demonstrated localization of AQP4 protein in close proximity to the VEGF-induced new blood vessels. Expression levels of AQP4 mRNA were maximum 7 days after VEGF injection whereas our previous report showed that BBB leakage is resolved at this time point. Therefore, we speculate a positive role of AQP4 in edema resolution, which may partially explain the previously reported beneficial effects of delayed VEGF administration in ischemic rats. Our results provide new insights into the molecular changes in the edematous brain and may help in future therapeutical directions.

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