Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 4, pp 759–771 | Cite as

Aquaglyceroporins: implications in adipose biology and obesity

  • Ana Madeira
  • Teresa F. Moura
  • Graça SoveralEmail author


Aquaporins (AQPs) are membrane water/glycerol channels that are involved in many physiological processes. Their primary function is to facilitate the bidirectional transfer of water and small solutes across biological membranes in response to osmotic gradients. Aquaglyceroporins, a subset of the AQP family, are the only mammalian proteins with the ability to permeate glycerol. For a long time, AQP7 has been the only aquaglyceroporin associated with the adipose tissue, which is the major source of circulating glycerol in response to the energy demand. AQP7 dysregulation was positively correlated with obesity onset and adipocyte glycerol permeation through AQP7 was appointed as a novel regulator of adipocyte metabolism and whole-body fat mass. Recently, AQP3, AQP9, AQP10 and AQP11 were additionally identified in human adipocytes and proposed as additional glycerol pathways in these cells. This review contextualizes the importance of aquaglyceroporins in adipose tissue biology and highlights aquaglyceroporins’ unique structural features which are relevant for the design of effective therapeutic compounds. We also refer to the latest advances in the identification and characterization of novel aquaporin isoforms in adipose tissue. Finally, considerations on the actual progress of aquaporin research and its implications on obesity therapy are suggested.


Aquaporin Adipocyte Obesity Diabetes Membrane permeability 



We thank Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia FCT-MCTES, Portugal, for fellowship (SFRH/BD/45930/2008) to A. Madeira.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Madeira
    • 1
    • 2
  • Teresa F. Moura
    • 1
    • 3
  • Graça Soveral
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Research Institute for Medicines (iMed.ULisboa)Faculty of Pharmacy, Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Bioquimica e Biologia Humana, Faculty of PharmacyUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.FCT-UNLCaparicaPortugal

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