The water and solute transporting properties of the epidermis have been proposed to be important determinants of skin moisture content and barrier properties. The water/small solute-transporting protein aquaporin-3 (AQP3) was found by immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy to be expressed at the plasma membrane of epidermal keratinocytes in mouse skin. We studied the role of AQP3 in stratum corneum (SC) hydration by comparative measurements in wild-type and AQP3 null mice generated in a hairless SKH1 genetic background. The hairless AQP3 null mice had normal perinatal survival, growth, and serum chemistries but were polyuric because of defective urinary concentrating ability. AQP3 deletion resulted in a >4-fold reduced osmotic water permeability and >2-fold reduced glycerol permeability in epidermis. Epidermal, dermal, and SC thickness and morphology were not grossly affected by AQP3 deletion. Surface conductance measurements showed remarkably reduced SC water content in AQP3 null mice in the hairless genetic background (165 ± 10 versus 269 ± 12 microsiemens (μS), p < 0.001), as well as in a CD1 genetic background (209 ± 21 versus 469 ± 11 μS). Reduced SC hydration was seen from 3 days after birth. SC hydration in hairless wild-type and AQP3 null mice was reduced to comparable levels (90-100 μS) after a 24-h exposure to a dry atmosphere, but the difference was increased when surface evaporation was prevented by occlusion or exposure to a humidified atmosphere (179 ± 13 versus 441 ± 34 μS). Conductance measurements after serial tape stripping suggested reduced water content throughout the SC in AQP3 null mice. Water sorption-desorption experiments indicated reduced water holding capacity in the SC of AQP3 null mice. The impaired skin hydration in AQP3 null mice provides the first functional evidence for the involvement of AQP3 in skin physiology. Modulation of AQP3 expression or function may thus alter epidermal moisture content and water loss in skin diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas