The process of saliva production in the salivary glands requires transepithelial water transfer from the interstitium to the acinar lumen. There are two transepithelial pathways: the transcellular and paracellular. In the transcellular pathway, the aquaporin water channels induce passive water diffusion across the membrane lipid bilayer. It is well known that aquaporin-5 (AQP5) is expressed in the salivary glands, in which it is mainly localized at the apical membrane of the acinar cells. This suggests the physiological importance of AQP5 in transcellular water transfer. Reduced saliva secretion under pilocarpine stimulation in AQP5-null mice compared with normal mice further indicates the importance of AQP5 in this process, at least in stimulated saliva secretion. Questions remain therefore regarding the role and importance of AQP5 in basal saliva secretion. It has been speculated that there would be some short-term regulation of AQP5 such as a trafficking mechanism to regulate saliva secretion. However, no histochemical evidence of AQP5-trafficking has been found, although some of biochemical analyses suggested that it may occur. There are no reports of human disease caused by AQP5 mutations, but some studies have revealed an abnormal subcellular distribution of AQP5 in patients or animals with xerostomia caused by Sjögren's syndrome and X-irradiation. These findings suggest the possible pathophysiological importance of AQP5 in the salivary glands.
Keywords: aquaporin-5; salivary gland; water channel; xerostomia.