Osmotic stress causes water molecules to efflux from cells through the cytoplasmic membrane. This study reveals that targeted mutation of the aqpZ gene, encoding an aquaporin water channel protein, in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 prevents the osmotic shrinkage of cells, suggesting that it is the water channel rather than the lipid bilayer that is primarily responsible for water transition through the membrane of this organism. The observations suggest that the aquaporin-mediated shrinkage of the Synechocystis cells plays an important role in changes of gene expression in response to hyperosmotic stress.
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