The capacity to concentrate urine develops progressively during postnatal life in most mammalian species. Here we have examined whether low expression of the arginine vasopressin (AVP)-activated water channel aquaporin-2 (AQP-2) may be a limiting factor for the concentrating capacity in the infant rats. Urine osmolality in response to 24-h dehydration increased significantly from 10 to 40 days of age. The most rapid increase occurred during the weaning period, i.e., days 15-20. A similar developmental pattern was observed for AQP-2 mRNA levels in the renal medulla. AQP-2 protein levels also increased markedly from day 10 to 40. Immunohistochemistry revealed that AQP-2 was exclusively located in collecting duct principal cells both in infant and adult rats but that the signal was much weaker in infants. To further examine the relationship between urinary concentrating capacity and AQP-2 expression, we treated rats with a single injection of betamethasone, which is known to accelerate maturation in several organs. Twenty-four hours after treatment, there was an increase in urine osmolality, renal medullary AQP-2 mRNA, and AQP-2 protein levels in infant but not in adult rats. A single injection of a specific V2 agonist caused within 6 h significant increase of AQP-2 mRNA in both infant arid adult. The expression of the mRNA of three other transporters involved in the concentrating process, medullary Na+-K+ATPase a-subunit, Na-K-2Cl cotransporter, and epithelial chloride channel also increased during the weaning period and were upregulated by glucocorticoids. We conclude that there is a well-synchronized development of the many of the components that determine the concentrating capacity and that the low expression of AQP-2 is one of the limiting factors for low concentrating capacity in infants.
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