The distribution and function of aquaporins in the kidney: resolved and unresolved questions

Anat Sci Int. 2017 Mar;92(2):187-199. doi: 10.1007/s12565-016-0325-2. Epub 2016 Jan 21.


The membrane water channel aquaporin (AQP) family is composed of 13 isoforms in mammals, eight of which are reportedly expressed in the kidney: AQP1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 11. These isoforms are differentially expressed along the renal tubules and collecting ducts. AQP1 and 7 are distributed in the proximal tubules, whereas AQP2, 3, and 4 occur in the collecting duct system. They play important roles in the reabsorption of water and some solutes across the plasma membrane. In contrast to other aquaporins found in the kidney, AQP6, 8, and 11 are localized to the cytoplasm rather than to the apical or basolateral membranes. It is therefore doubtful that these isoforms are directly involved in water or solute reabsorption. AQP6 is localized in acid-secreting type A intercalated cells of the collecting duct. AQP8 has been found in the proximal tubule but its cellular location has not yet been defined by immunohistochemistry. AQP11 seems to be localized in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of proximal tubule cells. Interestingly, polycystic kidneys develop in AQP11-null mice. Many vacuole-like structures are seen in proximal tubule cells in kidneys of newborn AQP11-null mice. Subsequently, cysts are generated, and most of the mice die within a month due to severe renal failure. Although ER stress and impairment of polycystin-1, the product of the gene mutated in autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease, are possible causes of cystogenesis in AQP11-null mice, the exact mechanism of pathogenesis and the physiological function of AQP11 are yet to be resolved.

Keywords: Aquaporins; Immunohistochemistry; Kidney; Polycystic kidney; Renal reabsorption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquaporins / metabolism*
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Aquaporins