Previous studies revealed that the rat retina contains numerous membrane-located water channels, the aquaporins (AQPs). Protein expression patterns of AQP1-4, 6 and 9 were examined by immunohistochemistry. In the present study, we investigated the immunolocalization of AQP1-4, 6 and 9 during postnatal development in the rat retina and examined the effect of age on the tissue distribution of these channels. AQP1, 3, 4, 6 and 9 showed gradually increased expression in rat retinas from postnatal week 1 to week 12, and decreased in the 40-week-old rat retinas. AQP2 expression was barely seen in the first week in rat retinas and displayed a significant increase from week 1 to week 4, however no significant alteration of AQP2 was observed after 4 weeks of development. AQP1 and 4 immunoreactivities were present in the inner limiting membrane (ILM), the ganglion cell layer (GCL), inner nuclear layer (INL) and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) in the 4-, 12- and 40-week-old rat retinas. The RPE, OLM and ILM showed a remarkable expression of AQP1-4, 6 and 9 in the 4, 12 and 40-week-old rat retinas. The reduced expression of AQPs in aged rat retinas may indicate the involvement of AQPs in the pathogenesis of age-related retinal diseases. (C) 2012 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.