Spermatogenesis and sperm maturation and storage are accompanied by significant movements of water, and multiple aquaporin transmembrane water channels (AQPs) have been recognized in the male reproductive tract. Nevertheless, the involvement of aquaporins in male reproductive physiology is mostly unknown. Here the expression and localization of AQP8 in rat spermatogenesis is defined and compared to that of AQP7, another aquaporin expressed in male germ cells. AQP8 mRNA was found in testis but not in epididymis, whereas the AQP7 transcript was present in both locations. By immunoblotting, the AQP8 protein was detected as a 25-kDa band and a 32- to 40-kDa diffuse component corresponding to the core and glycosylated protein, respectively. Membrane fractionation revealed AQP8 both in microsomal and plasma membrane-enriched fractions of rat testis while no apparent bands were detected in epididymis. AQP7 appeared as a 23- to 24-kDa band and was found both in testis and epididymis. By immunofluorescence, AQP8 labeling was found intracellularly as well as over the plasma membrane of germ cells throughout spermatogenesis. AQP7 was present in spermatids and spermatozoa and was predominant over the plasma membrane. AQP8 may be involved in the cytoplasmic condensation occurring during differentiation of spermatids into spermatozoa and in the generation of seminiferous tubule fluid.
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