FEBS Letters Award Session

Sunday 31 August

14:00-14:30, Grand Auditorium


Lund University, SE

Structural principles behind eukaryotic aquaporin regulation

Since biological membranes only have limited water permeability they facilitate the transport of water in and out of the cell through membrane-bound water-specific protein channels known as aquaporins (AQP). The importance of this protein family is highlighted by the fact that the discovery of AQPs gave Peter Agre the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2003. Aquaporins can be found in all kingdoms of life ranging from bacteria to higher eukaryotes such as plants and humans and are highly conserved between species. Eukaryotic aquaporins are often regulated by mechanisms such as trafficking and/or gating, allowing for fine-tuning of the water transport across the membrane at different time points. For plants, this is crucial in order to adapt to water fluctuations in the environment. Dysfunctional regulation of aquaporins in humans have been shown to be involved in several disease states.  

We have solved the X-ray structures of the gated spinach aquaporin SoPIP2;1 as well as human AQP2 which is regulated by trafficking. These structures have not only allowed us to study the structure-function relationships of each individual aquaporin, but also, due to the high degree of sequence conservation within the aquaporin family, deepen our general understanding of aquaporin regulation and the structural principles behind this.


Susanna Törnroth-Horsefield is Associate professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology, Lund University Sweden. Susanna earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Uppsala University in 2002. Her thesis described the crystal structures of two respiratory chain complexes from E. coli; the anaerobic complex Formate dehydrogenase-N and the aerobic complex Succinate dehydrogenase (SQR, Complex II). After her Ph.D. she moved to Gothenburg where she did a post-doc in the group of Prof. Richard Neutze, first at Chalmers University of Technology and later at University of Gothenburg. In 2006, Susanna was awarded a Junior Research fellowship by the Swedish Research Council, which was followed up by a Senior Research fellowship in 2010. During 2013, she took up her current position at Lund University where she is setting up a new research group. Susanna’s research aims at understanding the structural mechanisms behind regulation of eukaryotic aquaporins. Her work includes the crystal structures of the gated plant aquaporin SoPIP2;1 as well as human AQP2 and AQP5, both of which are regulated by trafficking. She is currently focusing on elucidating the structural principles that governs cellular sorting of human aquaporins and how this relates to disease.