Single Water Channels of Aquaporin-1 Do not Obey the Kedem-Katchalsky Equations


The Kedem-Katchalsky (KK) equations are often used to obtain information about the osmotic properties and conductance of channels to water. Using human red cell membranes, in which the osmotic flow is dominated by Aquaporin-1, we show here that compared to NaCl the reflexion coefficient of the channel for methylurea, when corrected for solute volume exchange and for the water permeability of the lipid membrane, is 0.54. The channels are impermeable to these two solutes which would seem to rule out flow interaction and require a reflexion coefficient close to 1.0 for both. Thus, two solutes can give very different osmotic flow rates through a semi-permeable pore, a result at variance with both classical theory and the KK formulation. The use of KK equations to analyze osmotic volume changes, which results in a single hybrid reflexion coefficient for each solute, may explain the discrepancy in the literature between such results and those where the equations have not been employed.

Osmotic reflexion coefficients substantially different from 1.0 cannot be ascribed to the participation of other `hidden' parallel aqueous channels consistently with known properties of the membrane. Furthermore, we show that this difference cannot be due to second-order effects, such as a solute-specific interaction with water in only part of the channel, because the osmosis is linear with driving force down to zero solute concentration, a finding which also rules out the involvement of unstirred-layer effects. Reflexion coefficients smaller than 1.0 do not necessitate water-solute flow interaction in permeable aqueous channels; rather, the osmotic behaviour of impermeable molecular-sized pores can be explained by differences in the fundamental nature of water flow in regions either accessible or inaccessible to solute, created by a varying cross-section of the channel.

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Received: 3 October 2000/Revised: 9 February 2001

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Curry, M., Shachar-Hill, B. & Hill, A. Single Water Channels of Aquaporin-1 Do not Obey the Kedem-Katchalsky Equations. J. Membrane Biol. 181, 115–123 (2001).

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  • Key words: AQP1 (aquaporin-1) — Osmosis — Kedem-Katchalsky equations — Water channels — Reflexion coefficient — Red cell.