It was shown recently that water channel homologs MIWC (mercurial insensitive water channel) and GLIP (glycerol intrinsic protein) colocalized in basolateral membranes of kidney collecting duct, tracheal and colonic epithelia, and in brain pia mater. We report here an extensive immunolocalization study of MIWC and GLIP in non-epithelial and glandular epithelial tissues in rat. Immunogold electron microscopy confirmed colocalization of MIWC and GLIP in basolateral membrane of principal cells in kidney collecting duct. However, in other epithelia, MIWC but not GLIP was expressed in basolateral membrane of parietal cells in stomach, and in excretory tubules of salivary and lacrimal glands; GLIP but not MIWC was expressed in transitional epithelium of urinary bladder and skin epidermis. In the central nervous system, MIWC was strongly expressed in the ependymal layer lining the aqueductal system, and in astrocytes throughout the spinal cord and in selected regions of brain. MIWC was also expressed in a plasma membrane pattern in skeletal, but not smooth or cardiac muscle. Neither protein was expressed in small intestine, testis, liver, spleen and nerve. The tissue-specific expression of MIWC suggests a role in fluid transport and/or cell volume regulation in stomach and glandular epithelia. The functional role of MIWC expression in the neuromuscular system and of GLIP expression in skin and urinary bladder is uncertain. The specific cellular sites of MIWC expression (astrocytes, trachea, sarcolemma, gastric parietal cells and kidney principal cells) correspond exactly to sites where orthogonal arrays of particles (OAPs) have been visualized by freeze-fracture electron microscopy, suggesting that MIWC may be the OAP protein.

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