Beyond water homeostasis: Diverse functional roles of mammalian aquaporins.
Kitchen P., Day RE., Salman MM., Conner MT., Bill RM., Conner AC.
BACKGROUND: Aquaporin (AQP) water channels are best known as passive transporters of water that are vital for water homeostasis. SCOPE OF REVIEW: AQP knockout studies in whole animals and cultured cells, along with naturally occurring human mutations suggest that the transport of neutral solutes through AQPs has important physiological roles. Emerging biophysical evidence suggests that AQPs may also facilitate gas (CO2) and cation transport. AQPs may be involved in cell signalling for volume regulation and controlling the subcellular localization of other proteins by forming macromolecular complexes. This review examines the evidence for these diverse functions of AQPs as well their physiological relevance. MAJOR CONCLUSIONS: As well as being crucial for water homeostasis, AQPs are involved in physiologically important transport of molecules other than water, regulation of surface expression of other membrane proteins, cell adhesion, and signalling in cell volume regulation. GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: Elucidating the full range of functional roles of AQPs beyond the passive conduction of water will improve our understanding of mammalian physiology in health and disease. The functional variety of AQPs makes them an exciting drug target and could provide routes to a range of novel therapies.