Affiliation: University at Buffalo, 352 Kapoor Hall, Buffalo, NY 14214-8033.
Monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs) are known to mediate the transport of short chain monocarboxylates such as lactate, pyruvate and butyrate. Currently, fourteen members of this transporter family have been identified by sequence homology, of which only the first four members (MCT1- MCT4) have been shown to mediate the proton-linked transport of monocarboxylates. Another transporter family involved in the transport of endogenous monocarboxylates is the sodium coupled MCTs (SMCTs). These act as a symporter and are dependent on a sodium gradient for their functional activity. MCT1 is the predominant transporter among the MCT isoforms and is present in almost all tissues including kidney, intestine, liver, heart, skeletal muscle and brain. The various isoforms differ in terms of their substrate specificity and tissue localization. Due to the expression of these transporters in the kidney, intestine, and brain, they may play an important role in influencing drug disposition. Apart from endogenous short chain monocarboxylates, they also mediate the transport of exogenous drugs such as salicylic acid, valproic acid, and simvastatin acid. The influence of MCTs on drug pharmacokinetics has been extensively studied for γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) including distribution of this drug of abuse into the brain and the results will be summarized in this review. The physiological role of these transporters in the brain and their specific cellular localization within the brain will also be discussed. This review will also focus on utilization of MCTs as potential targets for drug delivery into the brain including their role in the treatment of malignant brain tumors.