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Neuroscience. 2004;128(1):27-38.

Distribution of Aquaporin 9 in the adult rat brain: preferential expression in catecholaminergic neurons and in glial cells.

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D├ępartement de Neurochirurgie, CHUV BH19-208, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland.


Aquaporin 9 (AQP9) is a recently cloned water channel that is permeable to monocarboxylate, glycerol and urea. In rat, AQP9 has been found in testis and liver as well as in brain where its expression has been initially shown in glial cells in forebrain. However, the expression of AQP9 has not been investigated in the brainstem. The purpose of this study is to describe the distribution of AQP9-immunoreactive cells throughout the adult rat brain using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), Western blot and immunohistochemistry. We performed immunolabeling on brain from animals perfused with fixative and we show that AQP9 is expressed (i) in astrocytes in the glia limitans, in the white matter and in glial cells of the cerebellum, (ii) in the endothelial cells of pial vessels, and (iii) in specific groups of neurons. The neuronal AQP9 expression was almost exclusively observed in catecholaminergic cells including the adrenergic, noradrenergic and dopaminergic groups, but not in other monoaminergic neurons such as serotonergic or histaminergic cells. A slight labeling was also observed in non-catecholaminergic neurons localized in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. These results indicate that AQP9 has a unique brain distribution with a preferential localization in catecholaminergic nuclei known to be involved in many cerebral functions. While the presence of AQP9 in glia limitans and in endothelial cells of the pial vessels could be related to water transport through the blood-brain barrier, its expression in neuronal cells, not directly involved in the osmoregulation, suggests that brain AQP9 could also be used as a metabolite channel since lactate and glycerol can be energy substrates for neurons.

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