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The placenta supplies the foetus with critical nutrients such as essential amino acids (AA, eg leucine) for development and growth. It also represents a cellular barrier which is formed by a polarized, differentiated syncytiotrophoblast (STB) monolayer. Active Na+ -independent leucine transport across the placenta is mainly attributed to the System L transporters LAT1/SLC7A5 and LAT2/SLC7A8. This study explored the influence of trophoblast differentiation on the activity of LAT1/LAT2 and the relevance of LAT1/LAT2 in leucine uptake and transfer in trophoblasts by applying specific small molecule inhibitors (JPH203/JG336/JX009). L-leucine uptake (total dose = 167 μmol/L) was sensitive to LAT1-specific inhibition by JPH203 (EC50  = 2.55 µmol/L). The inhibition efficiency of JPH203 was increased by an additional methoxy group in the JPH203-derivate JG336 (EC50  = 1.99 µmol/L). Interestingly, JX009 showed efficient System L inhibition (EC50  = 2.35 µmol/L) and was the most potent inhibitor of leucine uptake in trophoblasts. The application of JPH203 and JX009 in Transwell® -based leucine transfer revealed LAT1 as the major accumulative transporter at the apical membrane, but other System L transporters such as LAT2 as rate-limiting for leucine efflux across the basal membrane. Therefore, differential specificity of the applied inhibitors allowed for estimation of the contribution of LAT1 and LAT2 in materno-foetal AA transfer and their potential impact in pregnancy diseases associated with impaired foetal growth. © 2020 The Authors. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine published by Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Jonas Zaugg, Xiao Huang, Fabian Ziegler, Matthias Rubin, Julien Graff, Jennifer Müller, Ruedi Moser-Hässig, Theresa Powell, Jürg Gertsch, Karl-Heinz Altmann, Christiane Albrecht. Small molecule inhibitors provide insights into the relevance of LAT1 and LAT2 in materno-foetal amino acid transport. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine. 2020 Nov;24(21):12681-12693

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PMID: 33001560

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