Transport of N-acetylaspartate by the Na+-dependent high-affinity dicarboxylate transporter NaDC3 and its relevance to the expression of the transporter in the brain

Wei Huang, Haiping Wang, Ramesh Kekuda, You Jun Fei, Anne Friedrich, Jian Wang, Simon J. Conway, Richard S Cameron, Frederick H. Leibach, Vadivel Ganapathy

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62 Scopus citations


N-Acetylaspartate is a highly specific marker for neurons and is present at high concentrations in the central nervous system. It is not present at detectable levels anywhere else in the body other than brain. Glial cells express a high-affinity transporter for N-acetylaspartate, but the molecular identity of the transporter has not been established. The transport of N-acetylaspartate into glial cells is obligatory for its intracellular hydrolysis, a process intimately involved in myelination, N-Acetylaspartate is a dicarboxylate structurally related to succinate. We investigated in the present study the ability of NaDC3, a Na+-coupled high-affinity dicarboxylate transporter, to transport N-acetylaspartate. The cloned rat and human NaDC3s were found to transport N-acetylaspartate in a Na+-coupled manner in two different heterologous expression systems. The Michaelis-Menten constant for N-acetylaspartate was ~60 μM for rat NaDC3 and ~250 μM for human NaDC3. The transport process was electrogenic and the Na+:N-acetylaspartate stoichiometry was 3:1. The functional expression of NaDC3 in the brain was demonstrated by in situ hybridization and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction as well as by isolation of a full-length functional NaDC3 from a rat brain cDNA library. In addition, the expression of a Na+-coupled high-affinity di-carboxylate transporter and the interaction of the transporter with N-acetylaspartate were demonstrable in rat primary astrocyte cultures. These studies establish NaDC3 as the transporter responsible for the Na+-coupled transport of N-acetylaspartate in the brain. This transporter is likely to be an essential component in the metabolic role of N-acetylaspartate in the process of myelination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-403
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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