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J Biol Chem. 2001 Nov 2;276(44):41288-92. Epub 2001 Aug 20.

Aquaporin-5 dependent fluid secretion in airway submucosal glands.

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  • 1Departments of Medicine and Physiology, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0521, USA.


Fluid and macromolecule secretion by submucosal glands in mammalian airways is believed to play an important role in airway defense and surface liquid homeostasis and in the pathogenesis of cystic fibrosis. Immunocytochemistry revealed strong expression of aquaporin water channel AQP5 at the luminal membrane of serous epithelial cells in submucosal glands throughout the mouse nasopharynx and upper airways and AQP4 at the contralateral basolateral membrane in some glands. Novel methods were applied to measure secretion rates and composition of gland fluid in wild type mice and knockout mice lacking AQP4 or AQP5. In mice breathing through a tracheotomy, total gland fluid output was measured from the dilution of a volume marker present in the fluid-filled nasopharynx and upper trachea. Pilocarpine-stimulated fluid secretion was 4.3 +/- 0.4 microl/min in wild type mice, 4.9 +/- 0.9 microl/min in AQP4 null mice, and 1.9 +/- 0.3 microl/min in AQP5 null mice (p < 0.001). Similar results were obtained when secreted fluid was collected in the oil-filled nasopharyngeal cavity. Real-time video imaging of fluid droplets secreted from individual submucosal glands near the larynx in living mice showed a 57 +/- 4% reduced fluid secretion rate in AQP5 null mice. Analysis of secreted fluid showed a 2.3 +/- 0.2-fold increase in total protein in AQP5 null mice and a smaller increase in [Cl(-)], suggesting intact protein and salt secretion across a relatively water impermeable epithelial barrier. Submucosal gland morphology and density did not differ significantly in wild type versus AQP5 null mice. These results indicate that AQP5 facilitates fluid secretion in submucosal glands and that the luminal membrane of gland epithelial cells is the rate-limiting barrier to water movement. Modulation of gland AQP5 expression or function might provide a novel approach to treat hyperviscous gland secretions in cystic fibrosis and excessive fluid secretions in infectious or allergic bronchitis/rhinitis.

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