Journal of Molecular Histology

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 303–309 | Cite as

Aquaporin expression in the human intervertebral disc

  • S. M. Richardson
  • R. Knowles
  • D. Marples
  • J. A. HoylandEmail author
  • A. Mobasheri
Original Paper


The nucleus pulposus (NP) of the human intervertebral disc (IVD) is a hyperosmotic tissue that is subjected to daily dynamic compressive loads. In order to survive within this environment the resident chondrocyte-like cells must be able to control their cell volume, whilst also controlling the anabolism and catabolism of their extra-cellular matrix. Recent studies have demonstrated expression of a range of bi-directional, transmembrane water and solute transporters, named aquaporins (AQPs), within chondrocytes of articular cartilage. The aim of this study was to use immunohistochemsitry to investigate the expression of aquaporins 1, 2 and 3 within the human IVD. Results demonstrated expression of both AQP-1 and -3 by cells within the NP and inner annulus fibrosus (AF), while outer AF cells lacked expression of AQP-1 and showed very low numbers of AQP-3 immunopositive cells. Cells from all regions were negative for AQP-2. Therefore this study demonstrates similarities in the phenotype of NP cells and articular chondrocytes, which may be due to similarities in tissue osmolarity and mechanobiology. The decrease in expression of AQPs from the NP to the outer AF may signify changes in cellular phenotype in response to differences in mechanbiology, osmolarity and hydration between the gelatinous NP and the fibrous AF.


Aquaporin Intervertebral disc Immunohistochemistry Osmolarity 



We thank Dr. Christopher A. Moskaluk (Departments of Pathology, Biochemistry, and Molecular Genetics, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA) and the staff of the Cooperative Human Tissue Network of the National Cancer Institute (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD) for access to CHTN tissue microarrays. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the joint UK Research Councils’ Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration in Tissue Engineering (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and Medical Research Council).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. M. Richardson
    • 1
  • R. Knowles
    • 1
  • D. Marples
    • 2
  • J. A. Hoyland
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Mobasheri
    • 3
  1. 1.Tissue Injury and Repair Group, School of Clinical and Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences The University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Institute of Membrane and Systems BiologyUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  3. 3.Division of Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine and ScienceUniversity of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington CampusSutton Bonington, LeicestershireUK

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