Tissue distribution and membrane localization of aquaporin-9 water channel: Evidence for sex-linked differences in liver

Grazia P. Nicchia, Antonio Frigeri, Beatrice Nico, Domenico Ribatti, Maria Svelto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aquaporin-9 (AQP9) is a water channel membrane protein also permeable to small solutes such as urea, glycerol, and 5-fluorouracil, a chemotherapeutic agent. With the aim of understanding the pathophysiological role of AQP9, we performed an extensive analysis by Western blotting, RT-PCR, and immunolocalization in rat tissues. Western blotting analysis revealed a major band of approximately 32 kD in testis, liver, and brain. Immunofluorescence showed strong expression of AQP9 in the plasma membrane of testis Leydig cells. In liver, AQP9 expression was found to be sex-linked. Male rats had higher levels of AQP9 than female in terms of both protein and mRNA. Moreover, in female livers the expression of AQP9 was mostly confined to perivascular hepatocytes, whereas males showed a more homogeneous hepatocyte staining. No differences in AQP9 expression level related to the age or to protein content of the diet were found, indicating that differences in the liver may be gender-dependent. In the brain, AQP9 expression was found in tanycytes mainly localized in the areas lacking a blood-brain barrier (BBB), such as the circumventricular organs (CVOs) of the third ventricles, the subfornical organ, the hypothalamic regions, and the glial processes of the pineal gland. AQP9 expression in the osmosensitive region of the brain suggests a role in the mechanism of central osmoreception. All these findings show a unique tissue distribution of AQP9 compared to the other known aquaporins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1547-1556
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • AQP9
  • Aquaporins
  • Brain
  • Liver
  • Testis
  • Water channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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