In general, erythrocytes are highly permeable to water, urea and glycerol. However, expression of aquaporin isoforms in erythrocytes appears to be species characteristic. In the present study, human (hRBC) and bovine (bRBC) erythrocytes were chosen for comparative studies due to their significant difference in membrane glycerol permeability. Osmotic water permeability (P(f)) at 23°C was (2.89 ± 0.37) × 10(-2) and (5.12 ± 0.61) × 10(-2)cms(-1) for human and bovine cells, respectively, with similar activation energies for water transport. Glycerol permeability (P(gly)) for human ((1.37 ± 0.26) × 10(-5)cms(-1)) differed in three orders of magnitude from bovine erythrocytes ((5.82 ± 0.37) × 10(-8)cms(-1)) that also showed higher activation energy for glycerol transport. When compared to human, bovine erythrocytes showed a similar expression pattern of AQP1 glycosylated forms on immunoblot analysis, though in slight higher levels, which could be correlated with the 1.5-fold larger P(f) found. However, AQP3 expression was not detectable. Immunofluorescence analysis confirmed the absence of AQP3 expression in bovine erythrocyte membranes. In conclusion, lack of AQP3 in bovine erythrocytes points to the lipid pathway as responsible for glycerol permeation and explains the low glycerol permeability and high E(a) for transport observed in ruminants.
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