Thirsty business: cell, region, and membrane specificity of aquaporins in the testis, efferent ducts, and epididymis and factors regulating their expression

J Androl. 2011 Nov-Dec;32(6):565-75. doi: 10.2164/jandrol.110.012831. Epub 2011 Mar 25.


Water content within the male reproductive tract is stringently regulated in order to promote sperm differentiation and maturation. Aquaporins (AQP) are a family of integral membrane proteins allowing the transcellular transport of water, gases, urea, glycerol, and ions. Past studies from our lab have revealed the following. In the testis, Sertoli cells express AQP 8, whereas germ cells express AQP 7. In the efferent ducts (ED), AQP 1, 9, and 10 localize to microvilli of nonciliated cells, in addition to a basolateral staining for AQP 1, whereas AQP 1 and 10 localize to ciliated cells. AQP 7 and 11 are expressed in the ED epithelium of young but not adult rats, suggesting suppression of translation as rats age. In the adult epididymis, AQP 1 appears in endothelial cells of vascular channels and myoid cells, whereas AQP 3 delineates basal cells. In principal cells, AQP 9 and 11 appear on microvilli, whereas AQP 7 localizes to lateral then to basal plasma membranes in a region-specific manner; AQP 7 also associates with myoid cells. AQP 5 is expressed in corpus and cauda regions. Additionally, several AQPs are expressed by some but not all basal (AQP 7, 11), clear (AQP 7, 9), and halo (AQP 7, 11) cells. Regulation studies reveal a role for estrogen, androgens, and lumicrine factors. These findings indicate unique associations of AQPs with specific membrane domains in a cell type- and region-specific manner within the EDs and epididymis, as well as complex regulation patterns of expression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Aquaporins / metabolism*
  • Ejaculatory Ducts / cytology
  • Ejaculatory Ducts / metabolism*
  • Epididymis / cytology
  • Epididymis / metabolism*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Water / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Aquaporins
  • Estrogens
  • Water