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J Biol Chem. 2005 Apr 8;280(14):13906-12. Epub 2005 Feb 4.

Aquaporin-4 gene disruption in mice reduces brain swelling and mortality in pneumococcal meningitis.

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Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0521, USA.


The astroglial water channel aquaporin-4 (AQP4) facilitates water movement into and out of brain parenchyma. To investigate the role of AQP4 in meningitis-induced brain edema, Streptococcus pneumoniae was injected into cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in wild type and AQP4 null mice. AQP4-deficient mice had remarkably lower intracranial pressure (9 +/- 1 versus 25 +/- 5 cm H2O) and brain water accumulation (2 +/- 1 versus 9 +/- 1 microl) at 30 h, and improved survival (80 versus 0% survival) at 60 h, through comparable CSF bacterial and white cell counts. Meningitis produced marked astrocyte foot process swelling in wild type but not AQP4 null mice, and slowed diffusion of an inert macromolecule in brain extracellular space. AQP4 protein was strongly up-regulated in meningitis, resulting in a approximately 5-fold higher water permeability (P(f)) across the blood-brain barrier compared with non-infected wild type mice. Mathematical modeling using measured P(f) and CSF dynamics accurately simulated the elevated lower intracranial pressure and brain water produced by meningitis and predicted a beneficial effect of prevention of AQP4 upregulation. Our findings provide a novel molecular mechanism for the pathogenesis of brain edema in acute bacterial meningitis, and suggest that inhibition of AQP4 function or up-regulation may dramatically improve clinical outcome.

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