Aquaporin-9 (AQP9), a water/glycerol channel protein, is expressed in several immune cells including neutrophils; however, its role in immune response remains unknown. Here we show the involvement of AQP9 in hapten-induced contact hypersensitivity (CHS), as a murine model of skin allergic contact dermatitis, using AQP9 knockout (AQP9-/-) mice. First, the CHS response to hapten dinitrofluorobenzene (DNFB) was impaired in AQP9-/- mice compared with wild-type (WT) mice. Adoptive transfer of sensitized AQP9-/- draining lymph node (dLN) cells into WT recipients resulted in a reduced CHS response, indicating impaired sensitization in AQP9-/- mice. Second, administration of WT neutrophils into AQP9-/- mice during sensitization rescued the impaired CHS response. Neutrophil recruitment to dLNs upon hapten application was attenuated by AQP9 deficiency. Coincidentally, AQP9-/- neutrophils showed a reduced CC-chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) ligand-induced migration efficacy, which was attributed to the attenuated recruitment of neutrophils to dLNs. Furthermore, we found that neutrophil deficiency, observed in AQP9-/- or neutrophil-depleted mice, decreased IL-17A production by dLN cells, which might be responsible for T cell activation during a subsequent CHS response. Taken together, these findings suggest that AQP9 is required for the development of sensitization during cutaneous acquired immune responses via regulating neutrophil function.
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