Molecular and integrative physiology of intestinal peptide transport

Annu Rev Physiol. 2004;66:361-84. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.66.032102.144149.


Intestinal protein digestion generates a huge variety and quantity of short chain peptides that are absorbed into intestinal epithelial cells by the PEPT1 transporter in the apical membrane of enterocytes. PEPT1 operates as an electrogenic proton/peptide symporter with the ability to transport essentially every possible di- and tripeptide. Transport is enantio-selective and involves a variable proton-to-substrate stoichiometry for uptake of neutral and mono- or polyvalently charged peptides. Neither free amino acids nor peptides containing four or more amino acids are accepted as substrates. The structural similarity of a variety of drugs with the basic structure of di- or tripeptides explains the transport of aminocephalosporins and aminopenicillins, selected angiotensin-converting inhibitors, and amino acid-conjugated nucleoside-based antiviral agents by PEPT1. The high transport capacity of PEPT1 allows fast and efficient intestinal uptake of the drugs but also of amino acid nitrogen even in states of impaired mucosal functions. Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of PEPT1 occurs in response to alterations in the nutritional status and in disease states, suggesting a prime role of this transporter in amino acid absorption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Enterocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Peptide Transporter 1
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Symporters*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Peptide Transporter 1
  • Peptides
  • SLC15A1 protein, human
  • Symporters