Water channels in membranes



A systematic programme of comparative nuclear magnetic resonance measurements of the membrane permeability for water (Pd) and of activation energy (Ea,d) of this process in red blood cells of various wild, laboratory and domestic animals was carried out here. The RBC from humans, cow, sheep and kangaroos had Pd values around 5·10−3 cm/s at 25 °C, 7 · 10−3 cm/s at 37 °C with Ea,d values around 25 kJ/mol. For RBC from other ten marsupial species and from mouse, rat and rabbit, the Pd values were more than twice as high as for human RBC. For mosr RBC a high value of Pd was associated with a low value of Ea,d (range from 15 to 21 kJ/mol), pointing to specialized channels for water diffusion incorporated in membrane proteins. Recently a channel-forming integral protein of 28 kDa (CHIP 28) was identified as a major water channel protein in the RBC membrane. A procedure for quantitating the purified CHIP 28 by densitometry of silver-stained polyacrylmide gel electrophoreograms was developed. The analysis of a purified fraction of CHIP 28 showed that the 28 kDa component represents approximately two-thirds of the sample with the remainder comprising the glycosylated high-molecular-weight component. A correlation between the content in CHIP 28 and the relative water permeability among RBC from different vertebrate species was attempted.