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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 15;110(3):1035-40. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1220566110. Epub 2012 Dec 31.

Protective role of brain water channel AQP4 in murine cerebral malaria.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Tragically common among children in sub-Saharan Africa, cerebral malaria is characterized by rapid progression to coma and death. In this study, we used a model of cerebral malaria appearing in C57BL/6 WT mice after infection with the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei ANKA. Expression and cellular localization of the brain water channel aquaporin-4 (AQP4) was investigated during the neurological syndrome. Semiquantitative real-time PCR comparing uninfected and infected mice showed a reduction of brain AQP4 transcript in cerebral malaria, and immunoblots revealed reduction of brain AQP4 protein. Reduction of brain AQP4 protein was confirmed in cerebral malaria by quantitative immunogold EM; however, polarized distribution of AQP4 at the perivascular and subpial astrocyte membranes was not altered. To further examine the role of AQP4 in cerebral malaria, WT mice and littermates genetically deficient in AQP4 were infected with P. berghei. Upon development of cerebral malaria, WT and AQP4-null mice exhibited similar increases in width of perivascular astroglial end-feet in brain. Nevertheless, the AQP4-null mice exhibited more severe signs of cerebral malaria with greater brain edema, although disruption of the blood-brain barrier was similar in both groups. In longitudinal studies, cerebral malaria appeared nearly 1 d earlier in the AQP4-null mice, and reduced survival was noted when chloroquine rescue was attempted. We conclude that the water channel AQP4 confers partial protection against cerebral malaria.

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