Member 4 of human solute carrier family 7 (SLC7A4) exhibits significant sequence homology with the SLC7 subfamily of human cationic amino acid transporters (hCATs) [Sperandeo, Borsani, Incerti, Zollo, Rossi, Zuffardi, Castaldo, Taglialatela, Andria and Sebastio (1998) Genomics 49, 230–236]. It is therefore often referred to as hCAT-4 even though no convincing transport activity has been shown for this protein. We expressed SLC7A4 in Xenopus laevis oocytes, but could not detect any transport activity for cationic, neutral or anionic amino acids or for the polyamine putrescine. In addition, human glioblastoma cells stably overexpressing a fusion protein between SLC7A4 and the enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) did not exhibit an increased transport activity for l-arginine. The lack of transport activity was not due to a lack of SLC7A4 protein expression in the plasma membrane, as in both cell types SLC7A4-EGFP exhibited a similar subcellular localization and level of protein expression as functional hCAT-EGFP proteins. The expression of SLC7A4 can be induced in NT2 teratocarcinoma cells by treatment with retinoic acid. However, also for this endogenously expressed SLC7A4, we could not detect any transport activity for l-arginine. Our data demonstrate that the expression of SLC7A4 in the plasma membrane is not sufficient to induce an amino acid transport activity in X. laevis oocytes or human cells. Therefore, SLC7A4 is either not an amino acid transporter or it needs additional (protein) factor(s) to be functional.

Abbreviations used: CAT, cationic amino acid transporter; hCAT, human CAT; EGFP, enhanced green fluorescent protein; HAT, heteromeric amino acid transporter; SLC7, solute carrier family 7; rBAT, related to b0,+ amino acid transporter.

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