The transport efficiency (TE) describes the performance of a transport protein for a specific substrate. To compare the TE of different transporters, the number of active transporters in the plasma membrane must be monitored, as it may vary for each transporter and experiment. Available methods, like LC–MS quantification of tryptic peptides, fail to discriminate inactive intracellular transporters or, like cell-surface biotinylation followed by affinity chromatography and Western blotting, are imprecise and very laborious. We wanted to normalize active transporters by the activity of a second transporter. A transporter tandem, generated by joining two transporter cDNAs into a single open reading frame, should guarantee a 1 : 1 stoichiometry. Here we created a series of tandems with different linkers between the human ergothioneine (ET) transporter ETT (gene symbol SLC22A4) and organic cation transporter OCT2 (SLC22A2). The linker sequence strongly affected the expression strength. The stoichiometry was validated by absolute peptide quantification and untargeted peptide analysis. Compared with wild-type ETT, the normalized ET clearance of the natural variant L503F was higher (f = 1.34); G462E was completely inactive. The general usefulness of the tandem strategy was demonstrated by linking several transporters with ETT; every construct was active in both parts. Transporter tandems can be used - without membrane isolation or protein quantification — as precise tools for transporter number normalization, to identify, for example, relevant transporters for a drug. It is necessary, however, to find suitable linkers, to check the order of transporters, and to verify the absence of functional interference by saturation kinetics.

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