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Cheilitis glandularis: immunohistochemical expression of protein water channels (aquaporins) in minor labial salivary glands


  • Conflict of interest
    All authors declare there is no conflict of interests.


Background  Cheilitis glandularis (CG) is a rare condition in which thick saliva is secreted from dilated ostia of swollen minor salivary glands from the lips. Aquaporins (AQPs) are membrane proteins that exhibit channel activity specific for water and small solutes. AQPs are essential for corporal homeostasis, and are widely expressed through human tissues. Most AQPs studies are based on renal and nervous pathophysiology; few involve salivary glands. Some previous investigators hypothesized that minor salivary gland structure and function is normal on CG.

Objectives  To study possible salivary synthesis alterations in CG, we compared the expression of AQPs present in minor salivary glands in specimens with CG and controls by using immunohistochemistry.

Methods  Seven cases of CG and three normal controls were studied.

Results  Intensity and patterns of expression of AQP 1, 2 and 8 differed in CG compared with controls. AQP 4 and 5 (the most important AQP in salivary function) showed identical patterns in CG and controls.

Conclusion  Our findings suggest that the expression and arguably, function of some of the AQPs may be altered in CG; consequently, water flow mechanism abnormalities with possible alteration in salivary composition seem to occur. External factors (mainly UV rays) seem to play an important role in CG; nonetheless, our findings suggest that there might be some degree of alteration on water transportation.