Fetal lung development is dependent upon secretion of liquid into the future airways which must be cleared at birth to establish air-breathing. Aquaporins (AQP) 1, 3, 4 and 5 are membranous water channel proteins that are present in the lung after birth in rodents, with little expression before birth. Our aim was to describe the changes in AQP1, 3, 4 and 5 expression and protein levels in the fetal lung of a long-gestation species (sheep) and in response to physiological factors known to alter fetal lung liquid dynamics. Both mRNA and high protein levels were detected for AQP1, 3, 4 and 5 by day 100 (term is ~150 days in ovine fetuses). A cortisol infusion (120-131 days) significantly (P < 0.05) increased AQP1 (0.9 +/- 0.2 (n = 4) vs.1.8 +/- 0.3 (n = 5)) and AQP5 (8.8 +/- 0.6 vs. 14.1 +/- 1.2) mRNA levels in fetal lung (measured by real-time PCR). Ten days of tracheal obstruction significantly (P < 0.05) decreased AQP5 mRNA levels (6.1 +/- 0.9 (n = 5) vs. 2.7 +/- 0.3 (n = 5)). Immunohistochemistry was used to show that protein levels changed in parallel with the mRNA changes. These findings suggest that AQPs could be involved in lung liquid production and reabsorption during fetal development in long-gestation species.