The expression of the water channel protein aquaporin (AQP)-5 in adult rodent and human lenses was recently reported using immunohistochemistry, molecular biology, and mass spectrometry techniques, confirming a second transmembrane water channel that is present in lens fibre cells in addition to the abundant AQP0 protein. Interestingly, the sub-cellular distribution and level of post-translational modification of both proteins changes with fibre cell differentiation and location in the adult rodent lens. This study compares the sub-cellular distribution of AQP0 and AQP5 during embryonic and postnatal fibre cell development in the mouse lens to understand how the immunolabelling patterns for both AQPs observed in adult lens are first established. Immunohistochemistry was used to map the cellular and sub-cellular distribution of AQP5 and AQP0 throughout the lens in cryosections from adult (6 weeks-8 months) and postnatal (0-2 weeks) mouse lenses and in sections from paraffin embedded mouse embryos (E10-E19). All sections were imaged by fluorescence confocal microscopy. Using antibodies directed against the C-terminus of each AQP, AQP5 was abundantly expressed early in development, being found in the cytoplasm of cells of the lens vesicle and surrounding tissues (E10), while AQP0 was detected later (E11), and only in the membranes of elongating primary fibre cells. During the course of subsequent embryonic and postnatal development the pattern of cytoplasmic AQP5 and membranous AQP0 labelling was maintained until postnatal day 6 (P6). From P6 AQP5 labelling became progressively more membranous initially in the lens nucleus and then later in all regions of the lens, while AQP0 labelling was abruptly lost in the lens nucleus due to C-terminal truncation. Our results show that the spatial distribution patterns of AQP0 and AQP5 observed in the adult lens are established during a narrow window of postnatal development (P6-P15) that precedes eye opening and coincides with regression of the hyaloid vascular system. Our results support the hypothesis that, in the older fibre cells, insertion of AQP5 into the fibre cell membrane may compensate for any change in the functionality of AQP0 induced by truncation of its C-terminal tail.
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