The aquaporin family of water channels in kidney

P. Agre, S. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The longstanding puzzle of membrane water-permeability was advanced by discovery of a new class of proteins known as the 'aquaporins' (AQPs). First identified in red blood cells, AQP1 was shown to function as a water channel when expressed in Xenopus oocytes or when pure AQP1 protein was reconstituted into synthetic membranes. Analysis of the primary sequence revealed that the two halves of the AQP1 polypeptide are tandem repeats; site directed mutagenesis studies indicate that the repeats may fold into an obversely symmetric structure which resembles an hourglass. Electron crystallography elucidated the tetrameric organization of AQP1, and functional studies suggest that each tetramer contains multiple functionally independent aqueous pores. AQP1 is abundant in the apical and basolateral membranes of renal proximal tubules and descending thin limbs, and is also present in multiple extra renal tissues. AQP2 is expressed only in the principal cells of renal collecting duct where it is the predominant vasopressin (ADH, antidiuretic hormone) regulated water channel. AQP2 is localized in the apical membrane and in intracellular vesicles which are targeted to the apical plasma membranes when stimulated by ADH. Humans with mutations in genes encoding AQP1 and AQP2 exhibit contrasting clinical phenotypes. AQP3 resides in the basolateral membranes of renal collecting duct principal cells providing an exit pathway for water; AQP4 is abundant in brain where it may function as the hypothalamic osmoreceptor responsible for secretion of ADH. Continued analysis of the aquaporins is providing detailed molecular insight into the fundamental physiological problems of water balance and disorders of water balance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-415
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 20 1996


  • ADH
  • aquaporin
  • directed mutagenesis
  • renal tubule
  • water channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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