Li, Z., Zhao, D., Gong, B., Xu, Y., Sun, H., Yang B. and Zhao, X. Decreased Saliva Secretion and Down-Regulation of AQP5 in Submandibular Gland in Irradiated Rats. Radiat. Res. 165, 678–687 (2006).

The molecular mechanisms of radiation-induced xerostomia remain unclear. The purpose of this study was to investigate the alterations of aquaporins (AQPs) and Na+/K+-ATPase in irradiated rat submandibular glands and to test the hypothesis that down-regulation of AQP5 expression in irradiated salivary glands is one of the mechanisms of radiation-induced xerostomia. Saliva from control and irradiated rat submandibular glands was analyzed. The mRNA level of AQP5 in the submandibular glands was assessed by semi-quantitative RT-PCR and in situ hybridization. The protein expression of AQP5, AQP1 and Na+/K+-ATPase was determined by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. The body weight, submandibular gland weight, and saliva secretion of irradiated rats significantly decreased by 12, 24 and 32% on day 3 and 24, 16 and 38% on day 30 postirradiation, respectively. There was a significant increase in the protein concentration and osmolality of saliva in irradiated rats on days 3 and 30 postirradiation. However, there was no significant difference between irradiated and control rats in total saliva protein secretion. RT-PCR analysis showed that mRNA expression of AQP5 was significantly down-regulated by 37 and 51% in irradiated rats on days 3 and 30 postirradiation, respectively. Immunoblotting showed that the AQP5 protein level was decreased by 40 and 60% in irradiated glands, in contrast to the slight reductions of AQP1 and Na+/K+-ATPase proteins. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated that loss of AQP5 protein occurred throughout the irradiated glands, while no significant reduction was detected in AQP1 and Na+/ K+-ATPase labeling density. These results suggest that the preferential down-regulation of AQP5 with minor effects on AQP1 and Na+/K+-ATPase may contribute to radiation-induced salivary dysfunction.

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