OATPs, OATs and OCTs: the organic anion and cation transporters of the SLCO and SLC22A gene superfamilies

Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Mar;165(5):1260-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01724.x.


The human organic anion and cation transporters are classified within two SLC superfamilies. Superfamily SLCO (formerly SLC21A) consists of organic anion transporting polypeptides (OATPs), while the organic anion transporters (OATs) and the organic cation transporters (OCTs) are classified in the SLC22A superfamily. Individual members of each superfamily are expressed in essentially every epithelium throughout the body, where they play a significant role in drug absorption, distribution and elimination. Substrates of OATPs are mainly large hydrophobic organic anions, while OATs transport smaller and more hydrophilic organic anions and OCTs transport organic cations. In addition to endogenous substrates, such as steroids, hormones and neurotransmitters, numerous drugs and other xenobiotics are transported by these proteins, including statins, antivirals, antibiotics and anticancer drugs. Expression of OATPs, OATs and OCTs can be regulated at the protein or transcriptional level and appears to vary within each family by both protein and tissue type. All three superfamilies consist of 12 transmembrane domain proteins that have intracellular termini. Although no crystal structures have yet been determined, combinations of homology modelling and mutation experiments have been used to explore the mechanism of substrate recognition and transport. Several polymorphisms identified in members of these superfamilies have been shown to affect pharmacokinetics of their drug substrates, confirming the importance of these drug transporters for efficient pharmacological therapy. This review, unlike other reviews that focus on a single transporter family, briefly summarizes the current knowledge of all the functionally characterized human organic anion and cation drug uptake transporters of the SLCO and the SLC22A superfamilies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Organic Anion Transporters / genetics*
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations