Aquaporins are multifunctional membrane channels which belong to the family of major intrinsic proteins (MIPs) and are best known for their ability to facilitate the movement of water. In the present study, earlier results from microarray experiments were followed up. These experiments had suggested that, in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), aquaporin family members are expressed in distinct patterns during leaf development. Real-time PCR and in situ hybridization were used to analyse the level and tissue-distribution of expression of candidate aquaporins, focusing on plasma membrane and tonoplast intrinsic proteins (PIPs, TIPs). Water channel function of seven aquaporins, whose transcripts were the most abundant and the most variable, was tested through expression in yeast and, in part, through expression in oocytes. All PIP1 and PIP2 subfamily members changed in expression during leaf development, with expression being much higher or lower in growing compared with mature tissue. The same applied to those TIPs which were expressed at detectable levels. Specific roles during leaf development are proposed for particular aquaporins.