Developmental switch in brain nutrient transporter expression in the rat

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;285(5):E1127-34. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00187.2003.


Normal development of both human and rat brain is associated with a switch in metabolic fuel from a combination of glucose and ketone bodies in the immature brain to a nearly total reliance on glucose in the adult. The delivery of glucose, lactate, and ketone bodies from the blood to the brain requires specific transporter proteins, glucose and monocarboxylic acid transporter proteins (GLUTs and MCTs), respectively. Developmental expression of the GLUTs in rat brain, i.e., 55-kDa GLUT1 in the blood-brain barrier (BBB), 45-kDa GLUT1 and GLUT3 in vascular-free brain, corresponds to maturational increases in cerebral glucose uptake and utilization. It has been suggested that MCT expression peaks during suckling and sharply declines thereafter, although a comparable detailed study has not been done. This study investigated the temporal and regional expression of MCT1 and MCT2 mRNA and protein in the BBB and the nonvascular brain during postnatal development in the rat. The results confirmed maximal MCT1 mRNA and protein expression in the BBB during suckling and a decline with maturation, coincident with the switch to glucose as the predominant cerebral fuel. However, nonvascular MCT1 and MCT2 levels do not reflect changes in cerebral energy metabolism, suggesting a more complex regulation. Although MCT1 assumes a predominantly glial expression in postweanling brain, the concentration remains fairly constant, as does that of MCT2 in neurons. The maintenance of nonvascular MCT levels in the adult brain implies a major role for these proteins, in concert with the GLUTs in both neurons and astrocytes, to transfer glycolytic intermediates during cerebral energy metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid / blood
  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cerebellum / chemistry
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Frontal Lobe / chemistry
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Glucose Transporter Type 3
  • Hippocampus / chemistry
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / genetics*
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Symporters / genetics
  • Thalamus / chemistry
  • Weaning


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Glucose Transporter Type 3
  • Ketone Bodies
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SLC16A7 protein, human
  • Slc16a7 protein, rat
  • Slc2a1 protein, rat
  • Slc2a3 protein, rat
  • Symporters
  • monocarboxylate transport protein 1
  • Lactic Acid
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid