Aquaporins are water channel proteins found in vacuolar membranes and plasma membranes, and belong to the major intrinsic protein (MIP) family of proteins. In the present study, we purified a 75 kDa MIP protein from a crude fraction of spinach leaf intracellular membranes. Upon urea/SDS-PAGE, the 75 kDa protein appeared as a 21 kDa polypeptide, and the 75 kDa species therefore probably represents a tetramer. The corresponding cDNA was obtained by PCR cloning and had an open reading frame encoding a 25.1 kDa protein. The protein, So-deltaTIP, was most homologous to the tonoplast intrinsic protein (TIP) subfamily of plant MIPs. Using affinity-purified So-deltaTIP-specific peptide antibodies, we investigated the subcellular and tissue distribution of So-deltaTIP. So-deltaTIP was specifically located in the vacuolar membrane. It was abundant in most vacuolated cells in all vegetative organs, but was excluded from the leaf epidermis as well as from the root phloem parenchyma and meristem. In spite of the high sequence homology between delta-TIPs of spinach, Arabidopsis, sunflower and radish, their expression patterns were totally different. However, a comparison of the expression pattern of So-deltaTIP with that of more distantly related TIPs showed similarities with Arabidopsis gamma-TIP, which is expressed in zones of cell elongation/differentiation but excluded from meristematic tissues. Meristematic cells are characterized by many small vacuoles as opposed to elongating and mature cells, which generally harbour a single, large vacuole. Our results indicate that the expression of So-deltaTIP may be induced when the large vacuole is formed.