In vitro studies of aquaporins 1 and 3 expression in cultured human proximal tubular cells: Upregulation by transferrin but not albumin

Carmelo Libetta, Teresa Rampino, Antonio Dal Canton

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Dysregulated renal water handling is a cardinal feature of nephrotic syndrome that has been shown in animal models of experimental nephrosis to mediate renal aquaporin (AQP) expression. However, data on the effect of proteinuria on the proximal tubule, which is heavily vested with AQP1 and therefore may participate in water homeostasis, are limited. To investigate this, we exposed primary human proximal tubular epithelial cells (PTECs) to two key proteinuric components shown to perturb tubule function: human serum albumin and transferrin. Using reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and immunocytochemical techniques, PTECs in the quiescent state were found to express AQP3 in addition to AQP1 gene and protein, which was also validated in a human proximal tubule cell line, HK-2. Immunohistochemical staining localized AQP1 synthesis to the apical and basolateral membranes and AQP3 synthesis to the basolateral membrane of proximal tubule epithelium. Transferrin in doses reaching nephrotic range upregulated PTEC transcription and translation of both AQP1 and AQP3 in a timeand dose-dependent manner. After 24 hours of stimulation, transferrin led to a 2.4- and 2.2-fold increase in AQP1 and APQ3 messenger RNA expression, whereas protein synthesis surged by 40.7% ± 2.48% and 24.2% ± 0.9% compared with control, respectively. These effects were not observed with albumin challenge and were not caused by osmolality fluctuation with transferrin treatment. In summary, our novel finding of AQP3 in PTECs indicates a role for AQP3 in proximal tubule water reabsorption. The pathophysiological significance of heightened AQP1 and AQP3 expression in PTECs on protein challenge as occurs in the nephrotic state requires further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-330
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Albumin
  • Aquaporin 1 (AQP1)
  • Aquaporin 3 (AQP3)
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Proteinuria
  • Transferrin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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