The aquaporins are a family of water channels expressed in several water-transporting tissues, including the kidney. We have used a peptide-derived, affinity-purified polyclonal antibody to aquaporin-3 (AQP-3) to investigate its localization and regulation in the kidney. Immunoblotting experiments showed expression in both renal cortex and medulla, with greatest expression in the base of the inner medulla. Subcellular fractionation of membranes, using progressively higher centrifugation speeds, revealed that AQP-3 is present predominantly in the 4,000 and 17,000 g pellets and, in contrast to AQP-2, is virtually absent in the high-speed (200,000 g) pellet that contains small intracellular vesicles. Immunocytochemistry and immunofluorescence studies revealed that labeling is restricted to the cortical, outer medullary, and inner medullary collecting ducts. Within the collecting duct, principal cells were labeled, whereas intercalated cells were unlabeled. Consistent with previous immunofluorescence studies (K. Ishibashi, S. Sasaki, K. Fushimi, S. Uchida, M. Kuwahara, H. Saito, T. Furukawa, K. Nakajima, Y. Yamaguchi, T. Gojobori, and F. Marumo. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91: 6269-6273, 1994; T. Ma, A. Frigeri, H. Hasegawa, and A. S. Verkman. J. Biol. Chem. 269: 21845-21849, 1994), the labeling was confined to the basolateral domain. Immunoelectron microscopy, using the immunogold technique in ultrathin cryosections, demonstrated a predominant labeling of the basolateral plasma membranes. In contrast to previous findings with AQP-2, there was only limited AQP-3 labeling of intracellular vesicles, suggesting that this water channel is not regulated acutely through vesicular trafficking. Immunoblotting studies revealed that thirsting of rats for 48 h approximately doubled the amount of AQP-3 protein in the inner medulla. These studies are consistent with a role for AQP-3 in osmotically driven water absorption across the collecting duct epithelium and suggest that the expression of AQP-3 is regulated on a long-term basis.