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World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Dec 14;14(46):7059-67.

Aquaporins: their role in cholestatic liver disease.

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Instituto de Fisiologia Experimental Facultad de Ciencias Bioquimicas y Farmaceuticas, UNR, Santa Fe, Argentina.


This review focuses on current knowledge on hepatocyte aquaporins (AQPs) and their significance in bile formation and cholestasis. Canalicular bile secretion results from a combined interaction of several solute transporters and AQP water channels that facilitate water flow in response to the osmotic gradients created. During choleresis, hepatocytes rapidly increase their canalicular membrane water permeability by modulating the abundance of AQP8. The question was raised as to whether the opposite process, i.e. a decreased canalicular AQP8 expression would contribute to the development of cholestasis. Studies in several experimental models of cholestasis, such as extrahepatic obstructive cholestasis, estrogen-induced cholestasis, and sepsis-induced cholestasis demonstrated that the protein expression of hepatocyte AQP8 was impaired. In addition, biophysical studies in canalicular plasma membranes revealed decreased water permeability associated with AQP8 protein downregulation. The combined alteration in hepatocyte solute transporters and AQP8 would hamper the efficient coupling of osmotic gradients and canalicular water flow. Thus cholestasis may result from a mutual occurrence of impaired solute transport and decreased water permeability.

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