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BACKGROUND - All thirteen known mammalian aquaporins have been detected in the eye. Moreover, aquaporins have been identified as playing essential roles in ocular functions ranging from maintenance of lens and corneal transparency to production of aqueous humor to maintenance of cellular homeostasis and regulation of signal transduction in the retina.
SCOPE OF REVIEW - This review summarizes the expression and known functions of ocular aquaporins and discusses their known and potential roles in ocular diseases.
MAJOR CONCLUSIONS - Aquaporins play essential roles in all ocular tissues. Remarkably, not all aquaporin function as a water permeable channel and the functions of many aquaporins in ocular tissues remain unknown. Given their vital roles in maintaining ocular function and their roles in disease, aquaporins represent potential targets for future therapeutic development.
GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE - Since aquaporins play key roles in ocular physiology, an understanding of these functions is important to improving ocular health and treating diseases of the eye. It is likely that future therapies for ocular diseases will rely on modulation of aquaporin expression and/or function. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Aquaporins.
© 2013. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Homeostasis of intracellular calcium is crucial for lens cytoarchitecture and transparency, however, the identity of specific channel proteins regulating calcium influx within the lens is not completely understood. Here we examined the expression and distribution profiles of L-type calcium channels (LTCCs) and explored their role in morphological integrity and transparency of the mouse lens, using cDNA microarray, RT-PCR, immunoblot, pharmacological inhibitors and immunofluorescence analyses. The results revealed that Ca (V) 1.2 and 1.3 channels are expressed and distributed in both the epithelium and cortical fiber cells in mouse lens. Inhibition of LTCCs with felodipine or nifedipine induces progressive cortical cataract formation with time, in association with decreased lens weight in ex-vivo mouse lenses. Histological analyses of felodipine treated lenses revealed extensive disorganization and swelling of cortical fiber cells resembling the phenotype reported for altered aquaporin-0 activity without detectable cytotoxic effects. Analysis of both soluble and membrane rich fractions from felodipine treated lenses by SDS-PAGE in conjunction with mass spectrometry and immunoblot analyses revealed decreases in β-B1-crystallin, Hsp-90, spectrin and filensin. Significantly, loss of transparency in the felodipine treated lenses was preceded by an increase in aquaporin-0 serine-235 phosphorylation and levels of connexin-50, together with decreases in myosin light chain phosphorylation and the levels of 14-3-3ε, a phosphoprotein-binding regulatory protein. Felodipine treatment led to a significant increase in gene expression of connexin-50 and 46 in the mouse lens. Additionally, felodipine inhibition of LTCCs in primary cultures of mouse lens epithelial cells resulted in decreased intracellular calcium, and decreased actin stress fibers and myosin light chain phosphorylation, without detectable cytotoxic response. Taken together, these observations reveal a crucial role for LTCCs in regulation of expression, activity and stability of aquaporin-0, connexins, cytoskeletal proteins, and the mechanical properties of lens, all of which have a vital role in maintaining lens function and cytoarchitecture.
Aquaporin 11 (AQP11) is a newly described member of the protein family of transport channels. AQP11 associates with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and is highly expressed in proximal tubular epithelial cells in the kidney. Previously, we identified and characterized a recessive mutation of the highly conserved Cys227 to Ser227 in mouse AQP11 that caused proximal tubule (PT) injury and kidney failure in mutant mice. The current study revealed induction of ER stress, unfolded protein response, and apoptosis as molecular mechanisms of this PT injury. Cys227Ser mutation interfered with maintenance of AQP11 oligomeric structure. AQP11 is abundantly expressed in the S1 PT segment, a site of major renal glucose flux, and Aqp11 mutant mice developed PT-specific mitochondrial injury. Glucose increased AQP11 protein expression in wild-type kidney and upregulation of AQP11 expression by glucose in vitro was prevented by phlorizin, an inhibitor of sodium-dependent glucose transport across PT. Total AQP11 levels in heterozygotes were higher than in wild-type mice but were not further increased in response to glucose. In Aqp11 insufficient PT cells, glucose potentiated increases in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. ROS production was also elevated in Aqp11 mutation carriers. Phenotypically normal mice heterozygous for the Aqp11 mutation repeatedly treated with glucose showed increased blood urea nitrogen levels that were prevented by the antioxidant sulforaphane or by phlorizin. Our results indicate an important role for AQP11 to prevent glucose-induced oxidative stress in proximal tubules.
Membrane proteins are abundant, critically important biomolecules that conduct essential functions in all cells and are the targets of a significant number of therapeutic drugs. However, the analysis of their expression, modification, protein-protein interactions, and structure by mass spectrometry has lagged behind similar studies of soluble proteins. Here we review the limitations to analysis of integral membrane and membrane-associated proteins and highlight advances in sample preparation and mass spectrometry methods that have led to the successful analysis of this protein class. Advances in the analysis of membrane protein posttranslational modification, protein-protein interaction, protein structure, and tissue distributions by imaging mass spectrometry are discussed. Furthermore, we focus our discussion on the application of mass spectrometry for the analysis of aquaporins as a prototypical integral membrane protein and how advances in analytical methods have revealed new biological insights into the structure and function of this family of proteins.
Aquaporin-0 (AQP0), the major integral membrane protein in lens fiber cells, becomes highly modified with increasing age. The functional consequences of these modifications are being revealed, and the next step is to determine how these modifications affect the ocular lens, which is directly related to their abundances and spatial distributions. The aim of this study was to utilize matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) direct tissue profiling methods, which produce spatially-resolved protein profiles, to map and quantify AQP0 post-translational modifications (PTMs). Direct tissue profiling was performed using frozen, equatorial human lens sections of various ages prepared by conditions optimized for MALDI mass spectrometry profiling of membrane proteins. Modified forms of AQP0 were identified and further investigated using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). The distributions of unmodified, truncated, and oleoylated forms of AQP0 were examined with a maximum spatial resolution of 500 μm. Direct tissue profiling of intact human lens sections provided high quality, spatially-resolved, relative quantitative information of AQP0 and its modified forms indicating that 50% of AQP0 is truncated at a fiber cell age of 24 ± 1 year in all lenses examined. Furthermore, direct tissue profiling also revealed previously unidentified AQP0 modifications including N-terminal acetylation and carbamylation. N-terminal acetylation appears to provide a protective effect against N-terminal truncation.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
PURPOSE - Aquaporin 0 (AQP0) is the major intrinsic protein in the lens and is essential for establishing proper fiber cell structure and organization. Cytoskeletal proteins that directly interact with the C terminus of AQP0 are identified herein.
METHODS - The water-insoluble fraction of lens fiber cells was chemically cross-linked, and cross-linked peptides with the C terminus of AQP0 were identified by mass spectrometry. Coimmunoprecipitation and AQP0 C-terminal peptide pulldown experiments were used to confirm the protein-protein interaction.
RESULTS - Unexpectedly, AQP0 was found to directly associate with ezrin/radixin/moesin (ERM) family members, proteins that are involved in linkage of actin filaments to the plasma membrane. Cross-linked peptides were detected between AQP0 and degenerate sequences of ezrin and radixin; however, AQP0 interaction with ezrin is believed to play a more significant function in the lens because of its higher level of expression and observed ezrin-specific cross-linking. The interaction was found to occur between the C terminus of AQP0 and subdomains F1 and F3 of ERM proteins. The interaction between AQP0 and ezrin was confirmed by coimmunoprecipitation and AQP0 C-terminal peptide pulldown experiments.
CONCLUSIONS - Considering the important known functions of the cellular actin cytoskeleton in fiber cell differentiation, the interaction of AQP0 and ERM proteins may play an important role in fiber cell morphology, elongation, and organization.
Fatty acid acylation of proteins is a well-studied co- or posttranslational modification typically conferring membrane trafficking signals or membrane anchoring properties to proteins. Commonly observed examples of protein acylation include N-terminal myristoylation and palmitoylation of cysteine residues. In the present study, direct tissue profiling mass spectrometry of bovine and human lens sections revealed an abundant signal tentatively assigned as a lipid-modified form of aquaporin-0. LC/MS/MS proteomic analysis of hydrophobic tryptic peptides from lens membrane proteins revealed both N-terminal and C-terminal peptides modified by 238 and 264 Da which were subsequently assigned by accurate mass measurement as palmitoylation and oleoylation, respectively. Specific sites of modification were the N-terminal methionine residue and lysine 238 revealing, for the first time, an oleic acid modification via an amide linkage to a lysine residue. The specific fatty acids involved reflect their abundance in the lens fiber cell plasma membrane. Imaging mass spectrometry indicated abundant acylated AQP0 in the inner cortical region of both bovine and human lenses and acylated truncation products in the lens nucleus. Additional analyses revealed that the lipid-modified forms partitioned exclusively to a detergent-resistant membrane fraction, suggesting a role in membrane domain targeting.
PURPOSE - To optimize fixation, sectioning, and immunolabeling protocols to map the morphology of the human lens with confocal microscopy.
METHODS - Transparent human lenses were fixed in 0.75% paraformaldehyde for 24 hours, cut in half, and fixed for another 24 hours. Lenses were cryoprotected, sectioned, and labeled with wheat germ agglutinin, aquaporin-0 antibodies, Hoechst, or toluidine blue. Before fixation, some lenses were incubated in an extracellular marker dye, Texas Red-dextran. Labeled sections were imaged with a confocal microscope. Overlapping images were tiled together to form a continuous image montage of fiber cell morphology from the periphery to the lens center.
RESULTS - Fiber cell morphologies were identical with those previously described by electron microscopy and allowed immunohistochemistry to be performed for a representative membrane protein, aquaporin-0. Sectioning protocols enabled the epithelium and outer cortex to be retained, leading to the identification of two unique morphologic zones. In the first zone, an age-independent compaction of nucleated fiber cells and the initiation of extensive membrane remodeling occur. In the second zone, fiber cells retain their interdigitations but lose their nuclei, exhibit a distorted shape, and are less compressed. These zones are followed by the adult nucleus, which is marked by extensive compaction and a restriction of the extracellular space to the diffusion of Texas Red-dextran.
CONCLUSIONS - The authors have developed sectioning and imaging protocols to capture differentiation-dependent changes in fiber cell morphology and protein expression throughout the human lens. Results reveal that differentiating fiber cells undergo extensive membrane remodeling before their internalization into the adult nucleus.
A tissue preparation protocol for MALDI (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization) imaging mass spectrometry of integral membrane proteins was developed using ocular lens and retinal tissues as model samples. Frozen bovine and human lenses were cryosectioned equatorially or axially at -20 degrees C into 20 mum-thick tissue sections. Lens sections were mounted onto gold-coated MALDI targets by methanol soft-landing to maintain tissue integrity. Tissue sections underwent extensive water washing to deplete the samples of highly abundant water-soluble proteins. Automated matrix deposition was achieved using an acoustic reagent multispotter, with sinapinic acid as matrix and high percentage acetonitrile as solvent, with a center-to-center spot spacing of 200-300 mum. Molecular images of full-length Aquaporin-0 (AQP0) and its most abundant truncation products were obtained from mass spectral data acquired across whole bovine and human lens sections. In equatorial and axial sections of bovine lenses, full-length AQP0 was detected throughout the lens. A truncation product corresponding to AQP0 (1-260) was detected in the bovine lens core at low abundance. In axial lens sections, no antero-posterior variation was detected. In 11 year-old human lens sections, full-length AQP0 was most abundant in the lens periphery, but was detected throughout the lens. The major truncation product, consisting of AQP0 residues 1-246, was absent from the lens periphery and increased in abundance in the lens core. This tissue preparation protocol was then applied to image the distribution of the G-protein coupled receptor, opsin, in the rabbit retina. This protocol has expanded the variety of target analytes which can be detected by MALDI imaging mass spectrometry to include intact integral membrane proteins.
Using immunohistochemistry and mass spectrometry, differentiation-dependent changes in the subcellular distribution and processing of aquaporin-0 (AQP0) have been mapped in the rat lens. Sections labelled with C-terminal tail AQP0 antibodies yielded two concentric rings of labelling with minimal signal in the lens core. The rings were separated by a transient zone of decreased labelling located prior to the transition of differentiating fiber (DF) cells into mature denucleated fiber (MF) cells. Mass spectrometry showed that the loss of core labelling was due to AQP0 cleavage, while the transient loss of labelling was more likely caused by masking of the antibody epitope. AQP0 subcellular distribution changed with radial distance into the lens. In peripheral DF cells, AQP0 was found throughout both broad and narrow side membranes. In deeper-lying DF cells, AQP0 aggregated into plaque-like structures located on the broad sides. This shift occurred prior to the transient loss of AQP0 signal, and coincided with formation of broad-side membrane invaginations between adjacent fiber cells to which filensin, a known binding partner of AQP0, was also localized. After nuclei loss, AQP0 was once again distributed throughout MF cell membranes. In the absence of protein synthesis, the observed subcellular redistribution of AQP0 in DF and subsequent cleavage of AQP0 in MF are suggestive of a switch in the function of AQP0 from a water channel to a junctional protein.