1. Aquaporins (AQPs) are targets for drug discovery for basic research and medicine. Human diseases involving fluid imbalances and oedema are of major concern and involve tissues in which AQPs are expressed. The range of functional properties of AQPs is continuing to expand steadily with ongoing research in the field. 2. Gating domains in AQPs are molecular sites for drug actions. Discovery of the arylsulphonamide AqB013 as an antagonist for AQP1 and AQP4 provided the first pharmacological agent with translational promise for the treatment of diseases in which AQPs have been implicated. The putative binding site for AqB013 in the internal vestibule of the AQP water pore involves amino acid residues that are located in the AQP loop D gating domain. 3. Aquaporins have been proposed as novel targets in cancer and oedema and are associated with a surprising array of important processes in the brain and body, such as angiogenesis, cell migration, development and neuropathological diseases. Functions beyond their simple role as water channels are suggested by the subtype-specific regulation of AQP expression. In both cancer and brain oedema, current therapies are limited and new pharmacological approaches focused on AQPs offer exciting potential for clinical advances.