Glutamine has multiple physiological and pathophysiological roles in the brain. Because of their position at the interface between blood and brain, the cerebral capillaries and the choroid plexuses that form the blood-brain barriers (BBB) and blood-cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) barriers, have the potential to influence brain glutamine concentrations. Despite this, there has been a paucity of data on the mechanisms and polarity of glutamine transport at these barrier tissues. In situ brain perfusion in the rat, indicates that blood to brain L-[14C]glutamine transport at the blood-brain barrier is primarily mediated by a pH-dependent, Na(+)-dependent, System N transporter, but that blood to choroid plexus transport is primarily via a pH-independent System N transporter and a Na(+)-independent carrier that is not System L. Transport studies in isolated rat choroid plexuses and primary cultures of choroid plexus epithelial cells indicate that epithelial L-[14C]glutamine transport is polarized (apical uptake>basolateral) and that uptake at the apical membrane is mediated by pH dependent System N transporters (identified as SN1 and SN2 by polymerase chain reaction) and the Na(+)-independent System L. Blood-brain barrier System N transport is markedly effected by cerebral ischemia and may be a good marker of endothelial cell dysfunction. The multiple glutamine transporters at the blood-brain and blood-CSF barriers may have role in meeting the metabolic needs of the brain and the barrier tissues themselves. However, it is likely that the main role of these transporters is removing glutamine, and thus nitrogen, from the brain.