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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jun 10;94(12):6202-9.

Expression of an Arabidopsis plasma membrane aquaporin in Dictyostelium results in hypoosmotic sensitivity and developmental abnormalities.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA.


The rd28 gene of Arabidopsis thaliana encodes a water channel protein, or aquaporin, of the plasma membrane. A construct in which transcription of the rd28 cDNA is controlled by the Dictyostelium actin15 promoter was transformed into Dictyostelium discoideum cells. Transformants contained RD28 protein in their plasma membranes. When shifted to a low-osmotic-strength buffer, cells expressing rd28 swelled rapidly and burst, indicating that the plant aquaporin allowed rapid water entry in the amoebae. The rate of osmotic lysis was a function of the osmotic pressure of the buffer. We also selected transformants in which the expression of the rd28 cDNA is driven by the promoter of the prespore cotB gene. These transformants accumulated rd28 mRNA uniquely in prespore cells. In low-osmotic-strength buffer, the cotB::rd28 cells aggregated and formed normally proportioned slugs but failed to form normal fruiting bodies. The number of spores was reduced 20-fold, and the stalks of the fruiting bodies were abnormally short. The consequences of expressing RD28 in prespore cells could be partially overcome by increasing the osmolarity of the medium. Under these conditions, the cotB::rd28 cells formed fruiting bodies of more normal appearance, and the number of viable spores increased slightly. Because prespore cells have to shrink and dehydrate to form spores, it was not unexpected that expression of an aquaporin would disrupt this process, but it was surprising to find that stalk differentiation was also affected by expression of rd28 in prespore cells. It appears that osmotic stress on prespore cells alters their ability to signal terminal differentiation in prestalk cells. The results provide independent confirmation that plant aquaporins can function in the cells of other organisms, and that D. discoideum can be used to study the properties of these water channels.

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