Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr 2019 Apr 17;1861(4):768-775. Epub 2019 Jan 17.
Department of Biology and Neurosciences Institute, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249, United States of America.
For its fundamental relevance, transport of water and glycerol across the erythrocyte membrane has long been investigated before and after the discovery of aquaporins (AQPs), the membrane proteins responsible for water and glycerol transport. AQP1 is abundantly expressed in the human erythrocyte for maintaining its hydrohomeostasis where AQP3 is also expressed (at a level ~30-folds lower than AQP1) facilitating glycerol transport. This research is focused on two of the remaining questions: How permeable is AQP3 to water? What is the glycerol-AQP3 affinity under near-physiological conditions? Through atomistic modelling and large-scale simulations, we found that AQP3 is two to three times more permeable to water than AQP1 and that the glycerol-AQP3 affinity is approximately 500/M. Using these computed values along with the data from the latest literature on AQP1 and on erythrocyte proteomics, we estimated the water and glycerol transport rates across the membrane of an entire erythrocyte. We used these rates to predict the time courses of erythrocyte swelling-shrinking in response to inward and outward osmotic gradients. Experimentally, we monitored the time course of human erythrocytes when subject to an osmotic or glycerol gradient with light scattering in a stopped-flow spectrometer. We observed close agreement between the experimentally measured and the computationally predicted time courses of erythrocytes, which corroborated our computational conclusions on the AQP3 water-permeability and the glycerol-AQP3 affinity.