We describe the first functional and molecular characterization of an amino acid permease (LdAAP3) from the human parasitic protozoan Leishmania donovani, the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis in humans. This permease contains 480 amino acids with 11 predicted trans-membrane domains. Expressing LdAAP3 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants revealed that LdAAP3 codes for a high-affinity arginine transporter (Km 1.9 microM). LdAAP3 is highly specific for arginine as its transport was not inhibited by other amino acids or arginine-related compounds. Using green fluorescence protein (GFP) fused to the N-terminus of LdAAP3, this transporter was localized to the surface membrane of promastigotes. The GFP-LdAAP3 chimera mediated a threefold increase in arginine transport in promastigotes, indicating that it is active and confirmed that LdAAP3 codes for an arginine transporter in parasite cells as well. LdAAP3 is novel as it shares a high level of homology with amino acid permeases from other trypanosomatidae but almost none with permeases from other phyla. The results of this work suggest that LdAAP3 might play a role in host-parasite interaction.