Monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs) are involved in the uptake and release of lactate, pyruvate, and ketone bodies. Studies of their distribution at both the mRNA and protein levels have highlighted the specific expression of MCT1, MCT2, and more recently MCT4 in the central nervous system. MCT1 was found strongly expressed by cortical astrocytes both in vitro and in vivo. It was also found at high levels on blood vessels, ependymocytes, and glia limitans. A subset of neurons in vitro exhibited a weak but significant MCT1 expression. In contrast, it was determined that MCT2 represents the predominant neuronal MCT on cultured neurons as well as on neurons throughout the brain parenchyma. At the subcellular level, part of MCT2 is located in postsynaptic densities. Specific populations of astrocytes in the white matter also exhibited MCT2 expression in the rat, but not in the mouse brain. MCT4 was found exclusively in astrocytes in several areas including the cortex, the hippocampus, and the cerebellum. MCT2 expression increased in cultured neurons with days in vitro commensurate with increased synapse formation. Moreover, a significant increase in MCT2 expression was observed in cultured neurons exposed to noradrenaline, an effect involving a regulation at the translational level. The description of MCTs on different cell types in the central nervous system together with clear evidence for regulation of their expression further emphasize the important role that monocarboxylates, and particularly lactate, might play in brain energy metabolism not only during development but also in the adult.
(c) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.