The aquaporins are a family of membrane water channels, some of which also transport glycerol. They are involved in a wide range of physiological functions (including water/salt homeostasis, exocrine fluid secretion, and epidermal hydration) and human diseases (including glaucoma, cancer, epilepsy, and obesity). At the cellular level, aquaporin-mediated osmotic water transport across cell plasma membranes facilitates transepithelial fluid transport, cell migration, and neuroexcitation; aquaporin-mediated glycerol transport regulates cell proliferation, adipocyte metabolism, and epidermal water retention. Genetic diseases caused by loss-of-function mutations in aquaporins include nephrogenic diabetes insipidus and congenital cataracts. The neuroinflammatory demyelinating disease neuromyelitis optica is marked by pathogenic autoantibodies against astrocyte water channel aquaporin-4. There remain broad opportunities for the development of aquaporin-based diagnostics and therapeutics. Disease-relevant aquaporin polymorphisms are beginning to be explored. There is great promise in the development of small-molecule aquaporin modulators for therapy of some types of refractory edema, brain swelling, neuroinflammation, glaucoma, epilepsy, cancer, pain, and obesity.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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