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Prog Retin Eye Res. 2008 Jul;27(4):420-33. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2008.04.001. Epub 2008 May 22.

Functions of aquaporins in the eye.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, 1246 Health Sciences East Tower, San Francisco, CA 94143-0521, USA.


The aquaporins (AQPs) are integral membrane proteins whose main function is to transport water across cell membranes in response to osmotic gradients. At the ocular surface, AQP1 is expressed in corneal endothelium, AQP3 and AQP5 in corneal epithelium, and AQP3 in conjunctival epithelium. AQPs are also expressed in lens fiber cells (AQP0), lens epithelium (AQP1), ciliary epithelium (AQP1, AQP4) and retinal Müller cells (AQP4). Mutations in AQP0 produce congenital cataracts in humans. Analysis of knockout mice lacking individual AQPs suggests their involvement in maintenance of corneal and lens transparency, corneal epithelial repair, intraocular pressure (IOP) regulation, retinal signal transduction and retinal swelling following injury. The mouse phenotype findings implicate AQPs as potential drug targets for therapy of elevated IOP and ocular disorders involving the cornea, lens and retina. However, much research remains in defining cell-level mechanisms for the ocular AQP functions, in establishing the relevance to human eye disease of conclusions from knockout mice, and in developing AQP-modulating drugs.

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