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Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2017 Dec;21(12):1161-1170. doi: 10.1080/14728222.2017.1398236. Epub 2017 Nov 5.

The aquaporin-4 water channel as a potential drug target in neurological disorders.

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a Departments of Medicine and Physiology , University of California , San Francisco , CA , USA.
b Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry , San Francisco State University , San Francisco , CA , USA.


Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is a water transporting protein expressed at the plasma membrane of astrocytes throughout the central nervous system (CNS). Analysis of AQP4 knockout mice has suggested its broad involvement in brain water balance, neuroexcitation, glial scarring, neuroinflammation, and even neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders. Broad clinical utility of AQP4 modulators has been speculated. Area covered: This review covers the biology of AQP4, evidence for its roles in normal CNS function and neurological disorders, and progress in AQP4 drug discovery. Expert opinion: Critical examination of available data reduces the lengthy potential applications list to AQP4 inhibitors for early therapy of ischemic stroke and perhaps for reduction of glial scarring following CNS injury. Major challenges in identification and clinical development of AQP4 inhibitors include the apparent poor druggability of AQPs, the many homologous AQP isoforms with broad tissue distribution and functions, technical issues with water transport assays, predicted undesired CNS and non-CNS actions, and the need for high blood-brain barrier permeation. To date, despite considerable effort, validated small-molecule AQP4 inhibitors have not been advanced. However, a biologic ('aquaporumab') is in development for neuromyelitis optica, an autoimmune inflammatory demyelinating disease where CNS pathology is initiated by binding of anti-AQP4 autoantibodies to astrocyte AQP4.


AQP4; astrocyte; brain edema; epilepsy; glial scarring; neuromyelitis optica; spinal cord injury; stroke

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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