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Keywords:

  • aquaporin-4;
  • astrocytes;
  • blood–brain barrier;
  • freeze-fracturing;
  • mice;
  • orthogonal arrays of particles

Abstract

The dystrophin–dystroglycan complex (DDC) is a molecular array of proteins in muscle and brain cells. The central component of the DDC is dystroglycan, which comprises α- and β-subunits. α-Dystroglycan (α-DG) binds to extracellular matrix components such as agrin, whereas β-dystroglycan (β-DG) is a membrane-spanning protein linking α-DG to the cytoskeleton and other intracellular components such as α-syntrophin. In astrocytes, α-syntrophin binds to the water channel protein aquaporin-4 (AQP4). Recently, it has been shown that AQP4 expression is unaltered in agrin-knockout mice, but that formation of orthogonal arrays of particles (OAPs), consisting of AQP4, is abnormal. As the brain-selective deletion of the DG gene causes a disorganization of the astroglial endfeet, we investigated whether DG deletion has an impact on AQP4. Western blotting revealed reduced AQP4 in the parenchymal but not in the superficial compartment of the astrocyte-conditioned DG-knockout mouse brain. Accordingly, immunohistochemical stainings of AQP4 revealed a selective loss of AQP4 in perivascular but not in superficial astroglial endfeet. In both superficial and perivascular endfeet of the DG-knockout brain, we observed a loss of OAPs. We conclude that in the absence of DG the majority of superficial AQP4 molecules did not form OAPs, and that expression of AQP4 in perivascular endfeet is compromised. However, the decreased number of perivascular AQP4 molecules obviously did form a few OAPs, even in the absence of DG.