Sheridan et al. was the first res earcher to describe a mouse model of rotavirus infection in their study of virus-specific immunity (Sheridan J F, et al., 1983). The neonatal mice that recei ved SA11 antigen-po sitive cells developed diarrhea that lasted ≥ 9 days. Mice are considered a reliable animal model for studying immune responses during primary rotavirus infection (Knipping K, et al., 2011). In our mouse model of rotavirus diarrhea, mice developed profusely liquid stools 24 hours after exposure to SA11 strain. Microscopically, vacuolar degeneration, multifocal villus atrophy, and necrosis in the ileum were noted. Electronic microscopy revealed intra-cytoplasmic lipid globules, mitochondrial swelling, and endoplasmic reticulum dilatation. By establishing this animal model, we are able to investigate if altered AQP expression levels in the intestines are associated with the development of rotavirus diarrhea.
At least 7 AQP subtypes (AQPs 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 11) are reportedly expressed in the gastrointestinal tract and play important roles in several physiological and pathological processes. In particular, the colon is a major site for AQP1, 3, 4, and 8 expression (Yamamoto T, et al., 2007), and there is some evidence regarding the physiological roles and functions of AQP1, 3, 4, and 8. Chen et al.(Chen H, et al., 2009) reported that AQP1 mRNA was significantly decreased after exposure to rotavirus SA11 in a mouse model of rotavirus-induced diarrhea. AQP1 protein expression demonstrates a similar pattern to that observed for AQP1 mRNA in our present research. AQP1 mRNA was upregulated in the traditional Chinese medicine antidiar rheal oral liquid treatment group, which further suggested that the decrease in AQP1 inhibited water transfer from the intestinal tract to the vascular side and caused diarrhea. However, there were no significant difference in AQP3, 4, and 8 expression between the rotavirus diarrhea group and treated with Chinese medicine antidiarrheal oral liquid group. In our present study, the expression levels of AQP4 and AQP8 decreased while AQP3 increased. This difference might have been caused by the quantity of samples and diarrhea severity. Our results are consistent with those reported by other researchers (Yamamoto T, et al., 2007; Ikarashi N, et al., 2011; Wang K S, et al., 2000; Laforenza U, et al., 2005; Hardin J A, et al., 2004; Ma T, et al., 2001; Tsujikawa T, et al., 2003). AQP1 reportedly plays a major role in pancreatic secretion, bile concentration, and water reabsorption in colon. Ma T et al. demonstrate that AQP1 knockout mice develop steatorrhea and a blunted weight gain when fed a high-fat diet, suggesting that AQP1 del etion causes the defective secretion of fluid across cells in the biliary tract and pancreatic acini/ducts and alters the quantity and/or composition of secreted fluids (Ma T, et al., 2001). In streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats, the number of AQP1-immunoreactive neurons significantly increase, indicating that AQP1 plays an important role in diabetic gastrointestinal dysfunctions such as diarrhea and constipation (Ishihara E, et al., 2008). The water content of defecated stool is also higher in AQP4-knockout mice (Wang K S, et al., 2000), and inhibiting AQP8 expression by small interfering RNA significantly decreases water absorption in rat colon (Laforenza U, et al., 2005), indicating that AQP4 and AQP8 may play major roles in water movement through the colon by acting on the apical side of the superficial cells. In addition, allergic diarrhea is associated with the downregulation of AQP4 and AQP8 expression in the proximal colon of mice (Yamamoto T, et al., 2007). Interestingly, in a murine model of colitis and in patients with inflammatory bowel disease or infectious colitis, significant alterations in colonic fluid secretion are correlated with reduced AQP4 and AQP8 expression. Patients have also developed severe diarrhea and reduced AQP expression levels (Hardin J A, et al., 2004). These results are consistent with our findings that AQPs are reduced in mice with severe diarrhea due to the experimental administration of rotavirus.
We also found that the AQP1 protein expression levels in the ileum, and AQP1, AQP4, and AQP8 levels in the colon, were significantly attenuated in rotavirus-infected mice, suggesting that these AQPs contribute to decreased colonic water absorption and subsequently diarrhea.
AQP3 in the colon was also upregulated after SA11 infection. We speculate that this is a compensatory mechanism to avoid severe diarrhea and further dehydration. Tsujikawa et al. also found that among rats with 80% distal small bowel resection, AQP3 mRNA expression significantly increased in the residual small intestine and colon. Diarrhea gradually improved, most likely due to an adaptive response to increased water absorption (Tsujikawa T, et al., 2003). In addition, Ikarashi et al reported that AQP3 protein expression in the colon significantly increases over time following the administration of osmotic laxative or magnesium sulfate-induced diarrhea (Ikarashi N, et al., 2011). Apparently, the compensatory increase in AQP3 found here was still insufficient to prevent diarrhea.
In conclusion, here we demonstrate that low AQP1 protein expression in the ileum and AQP1, AQP4, AQP8 protein expression in the colon play an important role in rotavirus diarrhea. Our work provides important insights into the mechanisms of rotavirus-induced diarrhea. Further analysis of the underlying molecular mechanisms that downregulate AQPs in the colon is required.