Object. Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) plays a significant role in the regulation of brain water homeostasis. In this study the authors investigated the regulation of AQP4 following a focal cortical contusion injury in rats.
Methods. Thirty-three adult male Wistar rats received a focal cortical contusion of the parietal cortex. An additional nine rats underwent a craniectomy, but no trauma was inflicted (sham injury). Animals were killed 1, 4, and 24 hours later. The rat brains were examined for water content by comparing the wet and dry weights of each hemisphere. Aquaporin-4 messenger (m)RNA was measured by reverse transcription—polymerase chain reaction. A ratio of AQP4 mRNA expression in the lesioned hemisphere compared with that in the contralateral control hemisphere was calculated for each animal at the injury site (parietal cortex) and at sites adjacent to (occipital cortex) and distant from the injury (frontal pole cortex).
Brain edema was significantly increased at the injury site. The expression of AQP4 mRNA was significantly increased at the injury site, significantly decreased adjacent to the injury site, and not significantly different at a site distant from the injury. The magnitude of AQP4 mRNA upregulation at the injured parietal cortex correlated with the degree of downregulation in the adjacent occipital cortex.
Conclusions. Data from this study demonstrate that an upregulation of AQP4 occurs at the site of traumatic brain injury and that a downregulation of this molecule occurs adjacent to the site of injury. Understanding the physiology of AQP4 and its regulation following brain injury may allow for the development of novel treatments for cerebral edema that accompanies head injury.