Infection of soybean roots by nitrogen-fixing Bradyrhizobium japonicum leads to expression of plant nodule-specific genes known as nodulins. Nodulin 26, a member of the major intrinsic protein/aquaporin (AQP) channel family, is a major component of the soybean symbiosome membrane (SM) that encloses the rhizobium bacteroid. To investigate the water and solute transport characteristics of nodulin 26, we purified the protein from SMs and reconstituted it into carboxyfluorescein-loaded liposomes for transport studies using stopped-flow spectrofluorimetry. Liposomes containing nodulin 26 exhibited a high osmotic permeability (Pf = 0. 012 +/- 0.0013 cm/s), a value fivefold higher than that obtained with control liposomes. Water flux through nodulin 26 showed a low activation energy (Ea) (4.07 kcal/mol) and was reduced 70% upon addition of 1 mM HgCl2. Reconstituted nodulin 26 exhibited a single-channel conductance of 3.8 +/- 2.5 x 10(-)15 cm3/s (n = 3), a value that is lower than other characterized AQPs. Nodulin 26 proteoliposomes also facilitate glycerol transport, showing a 43-fold higher rate of glycerol flux than control liposomes. This observation was supported by expression experiments in Xenopus oocytes that showed that nodulin 26 facilitated glycerol flux in a manner indistinguishable from the Escherichia coli GlpF glycerol facilitator. Consistent with the results of water transport, glycerol transport was inhibited by HgCl2 and showed a low Ea (4.43 kcal/mol). These results indicate that nodulin 26 is a multifunctional AQP that confers water and glycerol transport to the SM, and likely plays a role in osmoregulation during legume/rhizobia symbioses.