The Na(+)-independent, high affinity choline carrier system proposed to supply choline for the synthesis of cell membrane phospholipids was recently associated with SLC44 family members (SLC44A1-5) also called choline-like transporter family. SLC44A1 is widely expressed throughout the nervous system in both neurons and oligodendrocytes, while SLC44A2-4 are mainly detected in peripheral tissues. The subcellular localization of the proteins was mainly addressed for SLC44A1 through the development of specific antibodies. SLC44A1 is detected in both the plasma and mitochondrial membranes where the protein is able to transport choline at high affinity and in a Na(+)-independent manner. The physiological relevance of SLC44A1 as a choline carrier is indicated by its likely involvement in membrane synthesis for cell growth or repair, and also by its role in phospholipid production for the generation of lung surfactant. Moreover, an autoimmune disease has been related to the blockade of SLC44A2 function, which results in the alteration of hair cells in the inner ear and leads to autoimmune hearing loss. In the alloimmune syndrome called transfusion-related acute lung injury, antibodies to SLC44A2 cause a deleterious aggregation of granulocytes. Therefore transporters of the SLC44 family represent attractive and promising targets for therapeutic and diagnostic applications regarding both immune and degenerative diseases.
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