The amniotic membrane encloses the amniotic fluid and plays roles in the regulation of amniotic fluid flux through the intramembranous pathway during pregnancy. Aquaporins (AQPs) 1, 3, 8, and 9 are expressed in amniotic membranes. AQPs are water channel proteins that facilitate the rapid flux of water or small molecules across the plasma membrane. Recently, additional roles of AQPs in facilitating cell migration, proliferation, and apoptosis have been suggested, with AQPs being distributed in the appropriate subcellular regions for their functions. The cellular and subcellular distributions of AQPs in the amniotic membrane however remain unclear. We have examined the cellular and subcellular localization of AQPs in amniotic membranes during pregnancy in mice. After embryonic day 12 (E12), AQP1 was distributed in the plasma membrane of finely branched cell processes in the amniotic fibroblasts. AQP3 was present in both epithelial cells and fibroblasts between E10 and E12. The distribution of AQP3 in the epithelial cells dynamically changed as follows: at E14 in the lateral membrane and apical junction; at E16 in the lateral membrane alone; at E17 in the lateral membrane and cytoplasm. AQP8 was expressed in the epithelial cells and complementarily localized in the apical junction and the lateral membrane. AQP9 was detected only in the apoptotic cells of the epithelium. These cellular and subcellular localizations of amniotic AQPs indicate that each AQP plays distinct functional roles, such as in water and urea transport, cell migration, cell proliferation, and apoptosis, for amniotic fluid homeostasis or tissue remodeling of amniotic membranes.
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