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Mechanosensitive aquaporins

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Cellular systems must deal with mechanical forces to satisfy their physiological functions. In this context, proteins with mechanosensitive properties play a crucial role in sensing and responding to environmental changes. The discovery of aquaporins (AQPs) marked a significant breakthrough in the study of water transport. Their transport capacity and regulation features make them key players in cellular processes. To date, few AQPs have been reported to be mechanosensitive. Like mechanosensitive ion channels, AQPs respond to tension changes in the same range. However, unlike ion channels, the aquaporin’s transport rate decreases as tension increases, and the molecular features of the mechanism are unknown. Nevertheless, some clues from mechanosensitive ion channels shed light on the AQP-membrane interaction. The GxxxG motif may play a critical role in the water permeation process associated with structural features in AQPs. Consequently, a possible gating mechanism triggered by membrane tension changes would involve a conformational change in the cytoplasmic extreme of the single file region of the water pathway, where glycine and histidine residues from loop B play a key role. In view of their transport capacity and their involvement in relevant processes related to mechanical forces, mechanosensitive AQPs are a fundamental piece of the puzzle for understanding cellular responses.

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This research was supported by Fondo para la Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (FONCYT), grants Préstamo BID PICT2020-1438 (to GA), Préstamo BID PICT-2018-02026 (to SPD - LIP), and Préstamo BID PICT2017-0368 (to MO); Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), grant PIP2021-2023 N° 11220200100610CO (to MO); Universidad de Buenos Aires, grant UBACyT2020 N° 20020190200141BA (to MO); Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico (FONDECYT), Regular Grant No. 1221260 (to JAG). The Millennium Nucleus in NanoBioPhysics (NNBP) is supported by the Iniciativa Científica Milenio-Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (ICM-ANID), Project NCN2021, NNBP. The Centro Científico y Tecnológico de Excelencia Ciencia y Vida is supported by Financiamiento Basal para Centros Científicos y Tecnológicos de Excelencia de ANID Project FB210008.

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MO had the idea for the article. MO, LG, JJAA, MF, AC, LS, and LIP performed the literature search and wrote the article. MO, JJAA, AC, and RZ performed the figures. All the authors critically revised the work and participated in the writing process.

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Correspondence to Marcelo Ozu or José Antonio Garate.

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Ozu, M., Galizia, L., Alvear-Arias, J.J. et al. Mechanosensitive aquaporins. Biophys Rev 15, 497–513 (2023).

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