Rubenwolf, Peter C., Georgopoulos, Nikolaos T., Clements, Lisa A., Feather, Sally, Holland, Philip, Thomas, David F.M. and Southgate, Jennifer (2009) Expression and Localisation of Aquaporin Water Channels in Human Urothelium In Situ and In Vitro. European Urology, 56 (6). pp. 1013-1024. ISSN 0302-2838

Urothelium is generally considered to be impermeable to water and constituents of urine. The possibility that human urothelium expresses aquaporin (AQP) water channels as the basis for water and solute transport has not previously been investigated.

To investigate the expression of AQP water channels by human urothelium in situ, in proliferating urothelial cell cultures and in differentiated tissue constructs.

Design, setting, and participants
AQP expression by human urothelium in situ and cultured urothelial cells was assessed by reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunolabelling. Expression screening was carried out on samples of freshly isolated urothelia from multiple surgical (bladder and ureteric) specimens and on proliferating and differentiated normal human urothelial (NHU) cells in culture. Urothelial tissue constructs were established and investigated for expression of urothelial differentiation markers and AQPs.

Qualitative study.

Results and limitations
Transcripts for AQP3, AQP4, AQP7, AQP9, and AQP11 were expressed consistently by freshly isolated urothelia as well as by cultured NHU cells. AQP0, AQP1, AQP2, AQP5, AQP6, AQP8, AQP10, and AQP12 were not expressed. Immunochemistry confirmed expression of AQP3, AQP4, AQP7, and AQP9 at the protein level. AQP3 was shown to be intensely expressed at cell borders in the basal and intermediate layers in both urothelium in situ and differentiated tissue constructs in vitro.

This is the first study to demonstrate that AQPs are expressed by human urothelium, suggesting a potential role in transurothelial water and solute transport. Our findings challenge the traditional concept of the urinary tract as an impermeable transit and storage unit and provide a versatile platform for further investigations into the biological and clinical relevance of AQPs in human urothelium.

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