To characterize the cyst-lining cells in human autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), we performed immunohistological studies with specific antibodies against human aquaporin-2 (AQP-2, the vasopressin-regulated water channel) and aquaporin-3 (AQP-3), which are expressed only in collecting duct cells in the normal kidney. The polycystic kidney samples were obtained from 2 hemodialysis patient at uninephrectomy. Immunohistochemical studies revealed two types of staining of cyst-lining cells. Approximately 30% of all the cysts were simultaneously immunostained by both antibodies. Among these AQP-positive cysts, more than 90% of the cysts were intensely stained, with well-polarized localization of AQP-2 and AQP-3. In fewer than 10% of AQP-positive cysts, by contrast, immunostaining for AQP-2 and AQP-3 was faint and no clearly polarized localization of the channels was observed. We examined the immunostaining in further detail by electron microscopy. Staining specific for AQP-2 was mainly observed in the apical membrane of cyst-lining cells. Moreover, staining specific for AQP-3 was observed in all of the AQP-2-positive cysts. It appeared unlikely that the variations in immunostaining observed under the light microscope had been induced by total disruption of water-channel polarity. The present study suggests that about 30% of the cysts in our cases of ADPKD were derived from the collecting duct cells and that the cyst-lining cells were well differentiated in terms of AQP expression.
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