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J Cell Sci. 2005 Dec 15;118(Pt 24):5691-8. Epub 2005 Nov 22.

Involvement of aquaporin-4 in astroglial cell migration and glial scar formation.

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Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, 505 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143-0521, USA.


Aquaporin-4, the major water-selective channel in astroglia throughout the central nervous system, facilitates water movement into and out of the brain. Here, we identify a novel role for aquaporin-4 in astroglial cell migration, as occurs during glial scar formation. Astroglia cultured from the neocortex of aquaporin-4-null mice had similar morphology, proliferation and adhesion, but markedly impaired migration determined by Transwell migration efficiency (18+/-2 vs 58+/-4% of cells migrated towards 10% serum in 8 hours; P<0.001) and wound healing rate (4.6 vs 7.0 microm/hour speed of wound edge; P<0.001) compared with wild-type mice. Transwell migration was similarly impaired (25+/-4% migrated cells) in wild-type astroglia after approximately 90% reduction in aquaporin-4 protein expression by RNA inhibition. Aquaporin-4 was polarized to the leading edge of the plasma membrane in migrating wild-type astroglia, where rapid shape changes were seen by video microscopy. Astroglial cell migration was enhanced by a small extracellular osmotic gradient, suggesting that aquaporin-4 facilitates water influx across the leading edge of a migrating cell. In an in vivo model of reactive gliosis and astroglial cell migration produced by cortical stab injury, glial scar formation was remarkably impaired in aquaporin-4-null mice, with reduced migration of reactive astroglia towards the site of injury. Our findings provide evidence for the involvement of aquaporin-4 in astroglial cell migration, which occurs during glial scar formation in brain injury, stroke, tumor and focal abscess.

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