Water represents the major component of all living organisms. To make the cell to adapt to the surrounding environment and carry out its biological functions, water has to move into and out of the cell interior driven by osmotic forces. For over a century, scientists studying the movement of fluid into and out of the cell struggled with a difficult biophysical question: how does water pass through the cell? Movement of water across the membrane was indicated almost as soon as the lipid bilayer was recognized as being the plasma membrane of cells, back in the 1920s. Simple diffusion of water across the lipid bilayer occurs through all biological membranes. However, its low velocity and finite extent soon became apparent, suggesting the existence of additional pathways for water moving through the membrane. In spite of the enormous amount of work carried out in this area, the precise and complete answer only came relatively recently with the discovery of aquaporins, transmembrane channel proteins making the membrane tenfold to 100-fold more permeable to water than membranes lacking such pores. The water conductance featured by the aquaporins is astonishing: in fact, each single aquaporin pore can conduct billions of water molecules per second. A branch of the aquaporin family, the aquaglyceroporins, features conductance to small neutral solutes in addition to water. This review summarizes recent updates on the molecular structure, regulation, biophysics, and biological functions of aquaporins. Possible biotechnological applications of aquaporins are also described.

Aquaporin membrane channels: biophysics, classification, functions and possible biotechnological applications

GENA P;SVELTO, Maria;CALAMITA, Giuseppe
2011

Abstract

Water represents the major component of all living organisms. To make the cell to adapt to the surrounding environment and carry out its biological functions, water has to move into and out of the cell interior driven by osmotic forces. For over a century, scientists studying the movement of fluid into and out of the cell struggled with a difficult biophysical question: how does water pass through the cell? Movement of water across the membrane was indicated almost as soon as the lipid bilayer was recognized as being the plasma membrane of cells, back in the 1920s. Simple diffusion of water across the lipid bilayer occurs through all biological membranes. However, its low velocity and finite extent soon became apparent, suggesting the existence of additional pathways for water moving through the membrane. In spite of the enormous amount of work carried out in this area, the precise and complete answer only came relatively recently with the discovery of aquaporins, transmembrane channel proteins making the membrane tenfold to 100-fold more permeable to water than membranes lacking such pores. The water conductance featured by the aquaporins is astonishing: in fact, each single aquaporin pore can conduct billions of water molecules per second. A branch of the aquaporin family, the aquaglyceroporins, features conductance to small neutral solutes in addition to water. This review summarizes recent updates on the molecular structure, regulation, biophysics, and biological functions of aquaporins. Possible biotechnological applications of aquaporins are also described.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11586/128445
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