Differential cellular expression of organic anion transporting peptides OATP1A2 and OATP2B1 in the human retina and brain: implications for carrier-mediated transport of neuropeptides and neurosteriods in the CNS

Pflugers Arch. 2015 Jul;467(7):1481-1493. doi: 10.1007/s00424-014-1596-x. Epub 2014 Aug 19.


Organic anion transporting polypeptides (OATPs) are polyspecific organic anion transporters, which are expressed in the blood-brain barrier, the choroid plexus, and other organs. The physiologic function of OATPs in extrahepatic tissues remains ambiguous. In rat retina, members of the OATP family are expressed. We therefore investigated the human retina for the expression of OATP1A2 and OATP2B1 and extended the study to human brain. Furthermore, we searched for peptide neurotransmitters as novel OATP substrates. OATP1A2 displayed a broad expression pattern in human retina as assessed by immunofluorescence localization. It is expressed in photoreceptor bodies and somas of amacrine cells. OATP1B2 expression is restricted to the inner nuclear layer and to the inner plexiform layer. Using paraffin sections from human cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus, OATP1A2 was localized to neurons and neuronal processes, while OATP2B1 is expressed in endothelial cells of brain capillaries. Substance P and vasoactive intestinal peptide were identified as substrates for OATP1A2 and OATP2B1. Double-labeling immunofluorescence of human retina demonstrated the presence of substance P and of vasoactive intestinal peptides in neurons expressing OATP1A2 and OATP2B1, respectively. The expression of OATP1A2 and OATP2B1 in retinal neurons implies a role of these transporters in the reuptake of peptide neurotransmitters released from retinal neurons. The abundant expression of OATP1A2 in brain neurons points to the possibility that OATP1A2 could be involved in the homeostasis of neurosteroids. The high expression of OATP2B1 in brain capillaries supports an important function of OATPs in substance penetration across the blood-brain barrier.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Specificity
  • Organic Anion Transporters / genetics
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Substance P / metabolism*
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / metabolism*
  • Xenopus


  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SLCO1A2 protein, human
  • SLCO2B1 protein, human
  • Substance P
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide