Aquaporin-10 represents an alternative pathway for glycerol efflux from human adipocytes

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54474. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054474. Epub 2013 Jan 29.


Background: Glycerol outflow from adipocytes has been considered for a decade to be mediated by aquaporin-7, an aquaglyceroporin highly expressed in the adipose tissue. Its involvement in glycerol metabolism has been widely studied also in humans. Recent studies in different aquaporin-7 KO mice models pose two different questions 1) the exact localization of aquaporin-7 in human white adipose tissue; 2) the existence of other aquaglyceroporins that work with aquaporin-7 to guarantee glycerol efflux and thus a normal adiposity in humans. To this purpose we investigated the expression, the localization and the functioning of aquaglyceroporin-10 in subcutaneous white adipose tissue, in isolated and cultured differentiated adipocytes.

Methodology/principal findings: Aquaporin-7 and -10 were expressed in the white adipose tissue both at mRNA and at protein level. Immunofluorescence revealed aquaporin-7 and -10 labelling in the human adipose tissue both to the plasma membrane and to a thin rim of cytoplasm of adipocytes. Aquaporin-7, but not aquaporin-10, colocalized with the endothelial marker CD34. Human cultured differentiated adipocytes showed an aquaporin-7 and -10 labelling mainly in the cytoplasm and in the lipid droplets with insulin reinforcing the lipid droplets staining and isoproterenol inducing its translocation to the plasma membrane compartment. Water and glycerol permeability measurements using adipocytes and adipose membrane vesicles confirmed the presence of functioning aquaglyceroporins. Aquaporin-10 silencing in human differentiated adipocytes resulted in a 50% decrease of glycerol and osmotic water permeability.

Conclusions/significance: The results indicate that aquaporin-7, differently from mice, is present in both adipocyte and capillary plasma membranes of human adipose tissue. Aquaporin-10, on the contrary, is expressed exclusively in the adipocytes. The expression of two aquaglyceroporins in human adipose tissue is particularly important for the maintenance of normal or low glycerol contents inside the adipocyte, thus protecting humans from obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Aquaporins / genetics
  • Aquaporins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Silencing
  • Glycerol / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / pharmacology
  • Isoproterenol / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • AQP10 protein, human
  • AQP7 protein, human
  • Aquaporins
  • Insulin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Isoproterenol
  • Glycerol

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.