Functional analysis of the aquaporin gene family in Caenorhabditis elegans

Chunyi George Huang, Todd Lamitina, Peter Agre, Kevin Strange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aquaporin channels facilitate the transport of water, glycerol, and other small solutes across cell membranes. The physiological roles of many aquaporins remain unclear. To better understand aquaporin function, we characterized the aquaporin gene family in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Eight canonical aquaporin-encoding genes (aqp) are present in the worm genome. Expression of aqp-2, aqp-3, aqp-4, aqp-6, or aqp-7 in Xenopus oocytes increased water permeability five- to sevenfold. Glycerol permeability was increased three to sevenfold by expression of aqp-1, aqp-3, or aqp-7. Green fluorescent protein transcriptional and translational reporters demonstrated that aqp genes are expressed in numerous C. elegans cell types, including the intestine, excretory cell, and hypodermis, which play important roles in whole animal osmoregulation. To define the role of C. elegans aquaporins in osmotic homeostasis, we isolated deletion alleles for four aqp genes, aqp-2, aqp-3, aqp-4, and aqp-8, which are expressed in osmoregulatory tissues and mediate water transport. Single, double, triple, and quadruple aqp mutant animals exhibited normal survival, development, growth, fertility, and movement under normal and hypertonic culture conditions. aqp-2;aqp-3;aqp-4;aqp-8 quadruple mutants exhibited a slight defect in recovery from hypotonic stress but survived hypotonic stress as well as wild-type animals. These results suggest that C. elegans aquaporins are not essential for whole animal osmoregulation and/or that deletion of aquaporin genes activates mechanisms that compensate for loss of water channel function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C1867-C1873
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Osmoregulation
  • Water channel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Functional analysis of the aquaporin gene family in Caenorhabditis elegans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this