Molecular basis of pH and Ca2+ regulation of aquaporin water permeability

J Gen Physiol. 2004 May;123(5):573-80. doi: 10.1085/jgp.200308990. Epub 2004 Apr 12.


Aquaporins facilitate the diffusion of water across cell membranes. We previously showed that acid pH or low Ca(2+) increase the water permeability of bovine AQP0 expressed in Xenopus oocytes. We now show that external histidines in loops A and C mediate the pH dependence. Furthermore, the position of histidines in different members of the aquaporin family can "tune" the pH sensitivity toward alkaline or acid pH ranges. In bovine AQP0, replacement of His40 in loop A by Cys, while keeping His122 in loop C, shifted the pH sensitivity from acid to alkaline. In the killifish AQP0 homologue, MIPfun, with His at position 39 in loop A, alkaline rather than acid pH increased water permeability. Moving His39 to His40 in MIPfun, to mimic bovine AQP0 loop A, shifted the pH sensitivity back to the acid range. pH regulation was also found in two other members of the aquaporin family. Alkaline pH increased the water permeability of AQP4 that contains His at position 129 in loop C. Acid and alkaline pH sensitivity was induced in AQP1 by adding histidines 48 (in loop A) and 130 (in loop C). We conclude that external histidines in loops A and C that span the outer vestibule contribute to pH sensitivity. In addition, we show that when AQP0 (bovine or killifish) and a crippled calmodulin mutant were coexpressed, Ca(2+) sensitivity was lost but pH sensitivity was maintained. These results demonstrate that Ca(2+) and pH modulation are separable and arise from processes on opposite sides of the membrane.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Aquaporins
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology*
  • Eye Proteins / chemistry*
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fundulidae
  • Histidine / chemistry
  • Histidine / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Water / metabolism*
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / physiology*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Aquaporins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • aquaporin 0
  • Water
  • Histidine
  • Calcium