Automated cell-based assay for screening of aquaporin inhibitors

Maria Grazia Mola, Grazia Paola Nicchia, Maria Svelto, David C. Spray, Antonio Frigeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Aquaporins form water channels that play major roles in a variety of physiological processes so that altered expression or function may underlie pathological conditions. In order to identify compounds that modulate aquaporin function, we have implemented a functional assay based on rapid measurement of osmotically induced cell volume changes to screen several libraries of diverse drugs. The time course of fluorescence changes in calcein-loaded cells was analyzed during an osmotic challenge using a 96-multiwell fluorescence plate reader. This system was validated using astrocyte primary cultures and fibroblasts that strongly express endogenous AQP4 and AQP1 proteins, respectively, as well as AQP4-transfected cells. We screened 3575 compounds, including 418 FDA-approved and commercially available drugs, for their effect on AQP-mediated water transport. Primary screening yielded 10 compounds that affected water transport activity in both astrocytes and AQP4-transfected cells and 42 compounds that altered cell volume regulation in astrocytes. Selected drugs were then analyzed on AQP1-expressing erythrocytes and AQP4-expressing membrane vesicles by stopped-flow light scattering. Four molecules of the National Cancer Institute's chemical library (NSC164914, NSC670229, NSC168597, NSC301460) were identified that differentially affected both AQP4 and AQP1 mediated water transport, with EC50 values between 20 and 50 μM. This fluorescence microplate reader-based assay may, thus, provide a platform for highthroughput screening which, when coupled to a secondary evaluation to confirm target specificity, should allow discovery of AQP-specific compounds for novel therapeutic strategies in the treatment of water balance disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8219-8229
Number of pages11
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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