OCTN3: A Na+-independent L-carnitine transporter in enterocytes basolateral membrane

J Cell Physiol. 2005 Mar;202(3):929-35. doi: 10.1002/jcp.20193.


L-carnitine transport has been measured in enterocytes and basolateral membrane vesicles (BLMV) isolated from chicken intestinal epithelia. In the nominally Na+-free conditions chicken enterocytes take up L-carnitine until the cell to medium L-carnitine ratio is 1. This uptake was inhibited by L-carnitine, D-carnitine, gamma-butyrobetaine, acetylcarnitine, tetraethylammonium (TEA), and betaine. L-3H-carnitine uptake into BLMV showed no overshoot, and it was (i) Na+-independent, (ii) trans-stimulated by intravesicular L-carnitine, and (iii) cis-inhibited by TEA and cold L-carnitine. L-3H-carnitine efflux from L-3H-carnitine preloaded enterocytes was also Na+-independent, and trans-stimulated by L-carnitine, D-carnitine, gamma-butyrobetaine, acetylcarnitine, TEA, and betaine. Both, uptake and efflux of L-carnitine were inhibited by verapamil and unaffected by either extracellular pH or palmitoyl-L-carnitine. RT-PCR with specific primers for the mouse OCTN3 transporter revealed the existence of OCTN3 mRNA in mouse intestine, which was confirmed by in situ hybridization studies. Immunohystochemical analysis showed that OCTN3 protein was mainly associated with the basolateral membrane of rat and chicken enterocytes, whereas OCTN2 was detected at the apical membrane. In conclusion, the results demonstrate for the first time that (i) mammalian small intestine expresses OCTN3 mRNA along the villus and (ii) that OCTN3 protein is located in the basolateral membrane. They also suggest that OCTN3 could mediate the passive, Na+ and pH-independent L-carnitine transport activity measured in the three experimental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Carnitine / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Polarity
  • Chickens
  • Enterocytes / cytology
  • Enterocytes / metabolism*
  • Intestine, Small / cytology
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Rats
  • Sodium / metabolism*
  • Transport Vesicles / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins
  • Slc22a21 protein, mouse
  • Sodium
  • Carnitine