Aquaporin 1 - A novel player in spinal cord injury

O. Nesic, J. Lee, G. C. Unabia, K. Johnson, Z. Ye, L. Vergara, C. E. Hulsebosch, J. R. Perez-Polo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The role of water channel aquaporin 1 (AQP-1) in uninjured or injured spinal cords is unknown. AQP-1 is weakly expressed in neurons and gray matter astrocytes, and more so in white matter astrocytes in uninjured spinal cords, a novel finding. As reported before, AQP-1 is also present in ependymal cells, but most abundantly in small diameter sensory fibers of the dorsal horn. Rat contusion spinal cord injury (SCI) induced persistent and significant four- to eightfold increases in AQP-1 levels at the site of injury (T10) persisting up to 11 months post-contusion, a novel finding. Delayed AQP-1 increases were also found in cervical and lumbar segments, suggesting the spreading of AQP-1 changes over time after SCI. Given that the antioxidant melatonin significantly decreased SCI-induced AQP-1 increases and that hypoxia inducible factor-1α was increased in acutely and chronically injured spinal cords, we propose that chronic hypoxia contributes to persistent AQP-1 increases after SCI. Interestingly; AQP-1 levels were not affected by long-lasting hypertonicity that significantly increased astrocytic AQP-4, suggesting that the primary role of AQP-1 is not regulating isotonicity in spinal cords. Based on our results we propose possible novel roles for AQP-1 in the injured spinal cords: (i) in neuronal and astrocytic swelling, as AQP-1 was increased in all surviving neurons and reactive astrocytes after SCI and (ii) in the development of the neuropathic pain after SCI. We have shown that decreased AQP-1 in melatonin-treated SCI rats correlated with decreased AQP-1 immunolabeling in the dorsal horns sensory afferents, and with significantly decreased mechanical allodynia, suggesting a possible link between AQP-1 and chronic neuropathic pain after SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)628-640
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Aquaporin 1
  • Growth-associated protein 43
  • Hypertonicity
  • Hypoxia inducible factor
  • Melatonin
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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