Aquaporins are multifunctional water and solute transporters highly divergent in living organisms

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Jun;1788(6):1213-28. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2009.03.009. Epub 2009 Mar 25.


Aquaporins (AQPs) are ubiquitous membrane proteins whose identification, pioneered by Peter Agre's team in the early nineties, provided a molecular basis for transmembrane water transport, which was previously thought to occur only by free diffusion. AQPs are members of the Major Intrinsic Protein (MIP) family and often referred to as water channels. In mammals and plants they are present in almost all organs and tissues and their function is mostly associated to water molecule movement. However, recent studies have pointed out a wider range of substrates for these proteins as well as complex regulation levels and pathways. Although their relative abundance in plants and mammals makes it difficult to investigate the role of a particular AQP, the use of knock-out and mutagenesis techniques is now bringing important clues regarding the direct implication of specific AQPs in animal pathologies or plant deficiencies. The present paper gives an overview about AQP structure, function and regulation in a broad range of living organisms. Emphasis will be given on plant AQPs where the high number and diversity of these transport proteins, together with some emerging aspects of their functionalities, make them behave more like multifunctional, highly adapted channels rather than simple water pores.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Aquaporins / chemistry
  • Aquaporins / genetics
  • Aquaporins / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / physiology
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Glycerol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiology
  • Mammals
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Spinacia oleracea / metabolism
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Aquaporins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Urea
  • Glycerol