Accumulating evidence indicates that aquaporins play a key role in plant water relations. Plant aquaporins are part of a large and highly divergent protein family that can be divided into four subfamilies according to amino acid sequence similarity. As in other organisms, plant aquaporins facilitate the transcellular movement of water, but, in some cases, also the flux of small neutral solutes across a cellular membrane. Plant cell membranes are characterized by a large range of osmotic water permeabilities, and recent data indicate that plant aquaporin activity might be regulated by gating mechanisms. The factors affecting the gating behaviour possibly involve phosphorylation, heteromerization, pH, Ca2+, pressure, solute gradients and temperature. Regulation of aquaporin trafficking may also represent a way to modulate membrane water permeability. The aim of this review is to integrate recent molecular and biophysical data on the mechanisms regulating aquaporin activity in plant membranes and to relate them to putative changes in protein structure.
- Water channel