Aquaporin-3 (AQP3) is a water/glycerol transporting protein expressed strongly at the plasma membrane of keratinocytes. There is evidence for involvement of AQP3-facilitated water and glycerol transport in keratinocyte migration and proliferation, respectively. Here, we investigated the involvement of AQP3 in keratinocyte differentiation. Studies were done using AQP3 knockout mice, primary cultures of mouse keratinocytes (AQP3 knockout), neonatal human keratinocytes (AQP3 knockdown), and human skin. Cells were cultured with high Ca2+ or 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (VD3) to induce differentiation. The expression of differentiation marker proteins and differentiating responses were comparable in control and AQP3-knockout or knockdown keratinocytes. Topical application of all-trans retinoic acid (RA), a known regulator of keratinocyte differentiation and proliferation, induced comparable expression of differentiation marker proteins in wildtype and AQP3 null epidermis, though with impaired RA-induced proliferation in AQP3 null mice. Immunostaining of human and mouse epidermis showed greater AQP3 expression in cells undergoing proliferation than differentiation. Our results showed little influence of AQP3 on keratinocyte differentiation, and provide further support for the proposed involvement of AQP3-facilitated cell proliferation.
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