Recent discovery of a family of water-specific membrane channel proteins, the aquaporins, has provided new insights into the molecular basis of membrane water permeability. Eleven mammalian aquaporins have been identified to date, with homolog present across the spectrum of life, including bacteria, yeast and plants. The distribution of the mammalian aquaporins predicts their participation in a range of pathophysiological events. Empirical evidence of a physiological role for aquaporins is emerging from studies in both mice and humans, and suggests that aquaporins are likely to play significant roles in human pathophysiology.
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