Water channels (aquaporins) provide pathways for water permeation in a variety of epithelia. Aquaporin-3 (AQP3) has been localized to the basolateral membranes of epithelial cells in the small intestine, but mechanisms that regulate its expression and function have not been explored. To determine whether luminal content may influence intestinal AQP3 gene expression, adult Sprague-Dawley rats underwent sham laparotomy (N = 11) or loop ileostomy (N = 9) and were killed 8 days after procedures. Northern blot analysis was used to measure messenger RNA (mRNA) levels for AQP3 and the Na+/K+ ATPase, a housekeeping transporter that regulates cellular levels of Na+ and K+. At sacrifice, histologic examination revealed only minimal changes in mucosal morphology. In sham animals, Na/K mRNA levels increased moderately in distal regions of the small intestine. Ileostomy did not alter these levels in any region. In contrast, in sham animals, AQP3 mRNA levels increased along the length of the intestine and were markedly higher in the distal ileum. Diversion of luminal contents decreased AQP3 mRNA levels in the postileostomy region by 30% to 50%. These findings indicate regional variations in expression of the AQP3 water channel in mucosa of the small intestine. In addition, they suggest that AQP3 gene expression may depend on the presence of luminal contents.
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