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FASEB J. 2006 Sep;20(11):1892-4. Epub 2006 Jul 3.

Increased migration and metastatic potential of tumor cells expressing aquaporin water channels.

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


Aquaporin (AQP) water channels are expressed in high-grade tumor cells of different tissue origins. Based on the involvement of AQPs in angiogenesis and cell migration, we tested whether AQP expression in tumor cells might enhance their migration and metastatic potential. Transfection of B16F10 and 4T1 tumor cells with AQP1 did not affect their appearance, size, growth, or substrate adherence but increased their plasma membrane osmotic water permeability by 5- to 10-fold. In vitro analysis of cell migration by transwell assay, wound healing and video microscopy showed a 2- to 3-fold accelerated migration of the AQP1-expressing tumor cells compared to control cells. In mice, AQP1 expression increased tumor cell extravasation by >1.5-fold as quantified by counting tumor cells in lung at 6 h after tail vein injection of a mixture of fluorescently tagged AQP1-expressing and control tumor cells. AQP1 expression also increased by 3-fold the number of lung metastases 14 days after tail vein injection of tumor cells, with alveolar wall infiltration seen with AQP1-expressing tumor cells. Our results provide evidence for AQP-facilitated tumor cell migration and spread, suggesting a novel function for AQP expression in high-grade tumors. AQP inhibition may thus reduce the metastatic potential of some tumors.

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