There is now firm evidence that water transporting proteins are expressed in renal and extrarenal tissues. In the kidney, proximal-type (CHIP28) and collecting duct (WCH-CD) water channels have been identified. We have cloned three kidney cDNAs with homology to the water channel (aquaporin) family, including a mercurial-insensitive water channel (MIWC), and a glycerol-transporting protein (GLIP) in collecting duct basolateral membrane. To elucidate water transporting mechanisms, a series of molecular and spectroscopic studies were carried out on purified CHIP28 protein and expressed chimeric and mutated CHIP28 cDNAs. The results indicate that CHIP28 transports water selectively, that CHIP28 monomers are assembled in membranes as tetramers, but that individual monomers function independently. Monomers contain multiple membrane-spanning helical domains. Based on these data and recent electron crystallography results, a model for water transport is proposed in which water moves through narrow pores located within individual CHIP28 monomers.
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