Plant plasma membrane intrinsic proteins (PIPs) cluster in two evolutionary subgroups, PIP1 and PIP2, with different aquaporin activities when expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Maize ZmPIP1;1 and ZmPIP1;2 do not increase the osmotic water permeability coefficient (P f ), whereas ZmPIP2;1, ZmPIP2;4, and ZmPIP2;5 do. Here, we show that coexpression of the nonfunctional ZmPIP1;2 and the functional ZmPIP2;1, ZmPIP2;4, or ZmPIP2;5 resulted in an increase in P f that was dependent on the amount of injected ZmPIP1;2 complementary RNA. Confocal analysis of oocytes expressing ZmPIP1;2–green fluorescent protein (GFP) alone or ZmPIP1;2-GFP plus ZmPIP2;5 showed that the amount of ZmPIP1;2-GFP present in the plasma membrane was significantly greater in coexpressing cells. Nickel affinity chromatography purification of ZmPIP2;1 fused to a His tag coeluted with ZmPIP1;2-GFP demonstrated physical interaction and heteromerization of both isoforms. Interestingly, coexpression of ZmPIP1;1 and ZmPIP2;5 did not result in a greater increase in P f than did the expression of ZmPIP2;5 alone, but coexpression of the ZmPIP1;1 and ZmPIP1;2 isoforms induced a P f increase, indicating that PIP1 isoform heteromerization is required for both of them to act as functional water channels. Mutational analysis demonstrated the important role of the C-terminal part of loop E in PIP interaction and water channel activity induction. This study has revealed a new mechanism of plant aquaporin regulation that might be important in plant water relations.
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