Monocarboxylate transporters in the central nervous system: distribution, regulation and function

J Neurochem. 2005 Jul;94(1):1-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2005.03168.x.


Monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs) are proton-linked membrane carriers involved in the transport of monocarboxylates such as lactate, pyruvate, as well as ketone bodies. They belong to a larger family of transporters composed of 14 members in mammals based on sequence homologies. MCTs are found in various tissues including the brain where three isoforms, MCT1, MCT2 and MCT4, have been described. Each of these isoforms exhibits a distinct regional and cellular distribution in rodent brain. At the cellular level, MCT1 is expressed by endothelial cells of microvessels, by ependymocytes as well as by astrocytes. MCT4 expression appears to be specific for astrocytes. By contrast, the predominant neuronal monocarboxylate transporter is MCT2. Interestingly, part of MCT2 immunoreactivity is located at postsynaptic sites, suggesting a particular role of monocarboxylates and their transporters in synaptic transmission. In addition to variation in expression during development and upon nutritional modifications, new data indicate that MCT expression is regulated at the translational level by neurotransmitters. Understanding how transport of monocarboxylates is regulated could be of particular importance not only for neuroenergetics but also for areas such as functional brain imaging, regulation of food intake and glucose homeostasis, or for central nervous system disorders such as ischaemia and neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / chemistry*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Humans
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / chemistry*
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / genetics
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / metabolism*
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / physiology
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Protein Isoforms / physiology


  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Protein Isoforms