Recently, the PAT family of proton-dependent amino acid transporters has been identified as a novel class of mammalian amino acid symporters. PAT1 and PAT2 members mediate electrogenic uptake of small, neutral amino acids and derivatives by cotransport of protons. Analysis of the structural requirements for substrate recognition by PAT1 identified that a free amino group in a substrate is not essential for recognition. We therefore hypothesized that PAT1 and its ortholog PAT2 may also be able to recognize and transport the homologous short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. We examined in Xenopus laevis oocytes whether the SCFAs interact with the transporter by employing flux studies, electrophysiology and intracellular pH recordings. SCFAs did not induce positive inward currents but inhibited glycine-induced transport currents. PAT-mediated uptake of radiolabeled proline was also dose-dependently reduced by SCFA and could be described by first order competition kinetics with apparent Ki-values for butyrate of 6.0 +/- 0.7 and 7.6 +/- 1.3 mM for PAT1 and PAT2, respectively. Acetate as well as propionate uptake was significantly enhanced in oocytes expressing PAT1 or PAT2. An electroneutral H+/SCFA symport mode was demonstrated by recording intracellular pH changes under voltage clamp conditions with rate constants for the initial intracellular acidification in the presence of SCFAs significantly increased in PAT-expressing oocytes. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that the PAT1 and PAT2 proteins are capable to transport selected SCFAs in an electroneutral and the homologous amino acids in an electrogenic mode and are therefore a paradigm for bifunctional solute carriers.