Transport of solutes through brain involves diffusion and convection. The importance of convective flow in the subarachnoid and paravascular spaces has long been recognized; a recently proposed 'glymphatic' clearance mechanism additionally suggests that aquaporin-4 (AQP4) water channels facilitate convective transport through brain parenchyma. Here, the major experimental underpinnings of the glymphatic mechanism were re-examined by measurements of solute movement in mouse brain following intracisternal or intraparenchymal solute injection. We found that: (i) transport of fluorescent dextrans in brain parenchyma depended on dextran size in a manner consistent with diffusive rather than convective transport; (ii) transport of dextrans in the parenchymal extracellular space, measured by 2-photon fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, was not affected just after cardiorespiratory arrest; and (iii) Aqp4 gene deletion did not impair transport of fluorescent solutes from sub-arachnoid space to brain in mice or rats. Our results do not support the proposed glymphatic mechanism of convective solute transport in brain parenchyma.
Keywords: CSF; aquaporin 4; convection; diffusion; extracellular space; glymphatic hypothesis; mouse; neuroscience; rat.