Aquaporin-3 functions as a glycerol transporter in mammalian skin

Biol Cell. 2005 Jul;97(7):479-86. doi: 10.1042/BC20040104.


The AQPs (aquaporins) are a family of homologous water transporting proteins expressed in many mammalian epithelial, endothelial and other cell types. Phenotype analysis of mice lacking individual AQPs has been informative in elucidating their role in mammalian physiology. For example, phenotype analysis has indicated an important role of AQPs in the renal urinary concentrating mechanism (AQP1-AQP4), brain water balance and neural signal transduction (AQP4), exocrine gland secretion (AQP5) and ocular fluid balance (AQP1, AQP5). In skin, the aquaglyceroporin AQP3 is expressed in the basal layer of epidermal keratinocytes. Mice deficient in AQP3 have dry skin with reduced SC (stratum corneum) hydration, decreased elasticity and impaired biosynthesis. Mechanistic analysis of the altered skin phenotype in AQP3 deficiency suggested that the glycerol rather than the water transporting function of AQP3 is important in skin physiology. The glycerol content of SC and epidermis of AQP3 deficient mice is reduced, whereas that of dermis and serum is normal. The dry, relatively inelastic skin in AQP3 null mice is probably related to the humectant properties of glycerol, and the impaired SC repair to impaired epidermal biosynthetic function. The key role of AQP3 in epidermal physiology might be exploited in the development of improved cosmetics and new therapies for skin diseases associated with altered skin water content.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquaporin 3
  • Aquaporins / genetics
  • Aquaporins / physiology*
  • Glycerol / metabolism*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena* / genetics


  • Aqp3 protein, mouse
  • Aquaporins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Aquaporin 3
  • Glycerol