Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is a family member of water-channel proteins and is dominantly expressed in the foot process of glial cells surrounding capillaries. The predominant expression at the boundaries between cerebral parenchyma and major fluid compartments suggests the function of aquaporin-4 in water transfer into and out of the brain parenchyma. Accumulating evidences have suggested that the dysregulation of aquaporin-4 relates to the brain edema resulting from a variety of neuro-disorders, such as ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, trauma, etc. During edema formation in the brain, aquaporin-4 has been shown to contribute to the astrocytic swelling, while in the resolution phase, it has been seen to facilitate the reabsorption of extracellular fluid. In addition, aquaporin-4-deficient mice are protected from cytotoxic edema produced by water intoxication and brain ischemia. However, aquaporin-4 deletion exacerbates vasogenic edema in the brain of different pathological disorders. Recently, our published data showed that the upregulation of aquaporin-4 in astrocytes probably contributes to the transition from cytotoxic edema to vasogenic edema. In this review, apart from the traditional knowledge, we also introduce our latest findings about the effects of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and microRNA-29b on aquaporin-4, which could provide powerful intervention tools targeting aquaporin-4.
Keywords: aquaporin-4; brain edema; therapeutic target; water channel.