Cellular and molecular biology of the aquaporin water channels

Mario Borgnia, Søren Nielsen, Andreas Engel, Peter Agre

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

663 Scopus citations


The high water permeability characteristic of mammalian red cell membranes is now known to be caused by the protein AQP1. This channel freely permits movement of water across the cell membrane, but it is not permeated by other small, uncharged molecules or charged solutes. AQP1 is a tetramet with each subunit containing an aqueous pore likened to an hourglass formed by obversely arranged tandem repeats. Cryoelectron microscopy of reconstituted AQP1 membrane crystals has revealed the three-dimensional structure at 3-6 Å. AQP1 is distributed in apical and basolateral membranes of renal proximal tubules and descending thin limbs as well as capillary endothelia. Ten mammalian aquaporins have been identified in water-permeable tissues and fall into two groupings. Orthodox aquaporins are water-selective and include AQP2, a vasopressin-regulated water channel in renal collecting duct, in addition to AQP0, AQP4, and AQP5. Multifunctional aquaglyceroporins AQP3, AQP7, and AQP9 are permeated by water, glycerol, and some other solutes. Aquaporins are being defined in numerous other species including amphibia, insects, plants, and microbials. Members of the aquaporin family are implicated in numerous physiological processes as well as the pathophysiology of a wide range of clinical disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-458
Number of pages34
JournalAnnual review of biochemistry
StatePublished - Oct 4 1999


  • Channel structure
  • Gene family
  • Water transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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