Aquaporins: water channel proteins of the cell membrane

Prog Histochem Cytochem. 2004;39(1):1-83. doi: 10.1016/j.proghi.2004.03.001.


Aquaporins (AQP) are integral membrane proteins that serve as channels in the transfer of water, and in some cases, small solutes across the membrane. They are conserved in bacteria, plants, and animals. Structural analyses of the molecules have revealed the presence of a pore in the center of each aquaporin molecule. In mammalian cells, more than 10 isoforms (AQP0-AQP10) have been identified so far. They are differentially expressed in many types of cells and tissues in the body. AQP0 is abundant in the lens. AQP1 is found in the blood vessels, kidney proximal tubules, eye, and ear. AQP2 is expressed in the kidney collecting ducts, where it shuttles between the intracellular storage sites and the plasma membrane under the control of antidiuretic hormone (ADH). Mutations of AQP2 result in diabetes insipidus. AQP3 is present in the kidney collecting ducts, epidermis, urinary, respiratory, and digestive tracts. AQP3 in organs other than the kidney may be involved in the supply of water to them. AQP4 is present in the brain astrocytes, eye, ear, skeletal muscle, stomach parietal cells, and kidney collecting ducts. AQP5 is in the secretory cells such as salivary, lacrimal, and sweat glands. AQP5 is also expressed in the ear and eye. AQP6 is localized intracellular vesicles in the kidney collecting duct cells. AQP7 is expressed in the adipocytes, testis, and kidney. AQP8 is expressed in the kidney, testis, and liver. AQP9 is present in the liver and leukocytes. AQP10 is expressed in the intestine. The diverse and characteristic distribution of aquaporins in the body suggests their important and specific roles in each organ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquaporins / chemistry
  • Aquaporins / genetics
  • Aquaporins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Water / metabolism


  • Aquaporins
  • Water