The cellular and subcellular localization and expression of a kidney collecting duct water channel, aquaporin (AQP)-CD, were examined in the kidneys of hydrated and dehydrated rats by immunostaining, Northern blot analysis, and radioimmunoassay. In hydrated rat kidneys, AQP-CD was selectively found in the collecting duct principal cells and inner medullary collecting duct cells, but not in the intercalated cells. At a light microscopic level, AQP-CD was diffusely present in a granular pattern throughout the cytoplasm of the collecting duct cells with a preferential accumulation in subapical regions. By immunoelectron microscopy, AQP-CD was frequently demonstrated along membranes of small vesicles in the subapical cytoplasm and occasionally along the basolateral membranes of these cells. However, immunolabeling was sparse on the apical membranes. In dehydrated rats, AQP-CD immunostaining was intensified in the subapical cytoplasm of the collecting duct cells, along with increases in the number and size of AQP-CD-bearing vesicles in the subapical regions and with increment of labeling along the apical membranes. The increase in the amount of AQP-CD in the collecting duct cells of dehydrated rat kidneys was quantitatively confirmed by elevation of AQP-CD at mRNA and protein levels. The AQP-CD localization is consistent with the predicted site of the antidiuretic hormone (ADH)-regulated water channel in the collecting ducts and the increase in AQP-CD at mRNA and protein levels by dehydration may account for high concentration of urine in dehydrated subjects.