Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is critically involved in brain water and volume homeostasis and has been implicated in a wide range of pathological conditions. Notably, evidence has been accrued to suggest that AQP4 plays a proinflammatory role by promoting release of astrocytic cytokines that activate microglia and other astrocytes. Neuroinflammation is a hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD), and we have previously shown that astrocytes in substantia nigra (SN) are enriched in AQP4 relative to cortical astrocytes, and that their complement of AQP4 is further increased following treatment with the parkinsonogenic toxin MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine). Here, we investigated the effect of Aqp4 deletion on microglial activation in mice subjected to unilateral intrastriatal injection of 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+, the toxic metabolite of MPTP). Our results show that MPP+ injections lead to a pronounced increase in the expression level of microglial activating genes in the ventral mesencephalon of wild type (WT) mice, but not Aqp4-/- mice. We also show, in WT mice, that MPP+ injections cause an upregulation of nigral AQP4 and swelling of astrocytic endfeet. These findings are consistent with the idea that AQP4 plays a pro-inflammatory role in Parkinson's disease, secondary to the dysregulation of astrocytic volume homeostasis.
Keywords: AQP4; MPP+; Parkinson’s disease; astrocyte; microglia; neuroinflammation.