Extracellular solutes in the central nervous system are exchanged between the interstitial fluid, the perivascular compartment, and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The “glymphatic” mechanism proposes that the astrocyte water channel aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is a major determinant of solute transport between the CSF and the interstitial space; however, this is controversial in part because of wide variance in experimental data on interstitial uptake of cisternally injected solutes. Here, we investigated the determinants of solute uptake in brain parenchyma following cisternal injection and reexamined the role of AQP4 using a novel constant-pressure method. In mice, increased cisternal injection rate, which modestly increased intracranial pressure, remarkably increased solute dispersion in the subarachnoid space and uptake in the cortical perivascular compartment. To investigate the role of AQP4 in the absence of confounding variations in pressure and CSF solute concentration over time and space, solutes were applied directly onto the brain surface after durotomy under constant external pressure. Pressure elevation increased solute penetration into the perivascular compartment but had little effect on parenchymal solute uptake. Solute penetration and uptake did not differ significantly between wild-type and AQP4 knockout mice. Our results offer an explanation for the variability in cisternal injection studies and indicate AQP4-independent solute transfer from the CSF to the interstitial space in mouse brain.

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