Functional assessment of creatine transporter in control and X-linked SLC6A8-deficient fibroblasts

Mol Genet Metab. 2018 Apr;123(4):463-471. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2018.02.010. Epub 2018 Feb 16.


Creatine transporter is currently the focus of renewed interest with emerging roles in brain neurotransmission and physiology, and the bioenergetics of cancer metastases. We here report on amendments of a standard creatine uptake assay which might help clinical chemistry laboratories to extend their current range of measurements of creatine and metabolites in body fluids to functional enzyme explorations. In this respect, short incubation times and the use of a stable-isotope-labeled substrate (D3-creatine) preceded by a creatine wash-out step from cultured fibroblast cells by removal of fetal bovine serum (rich in creatine) from the incubation medium are recommended. Together, these measures decreased, by a first order of magnitude, creatine concentrations in the incubation medium at the start of creatine-uptake studies and allowed to functionally discriminate between 4 hemizygous male and 4 heterozygous female patients with X-linked SLC6A8 deficiency, and between this cohort of eight patients and controls. The functional assay corroborated genetic diagnosis of SLC6A8 deficiency. Gene anomalies in our small cohort included splicing site (c.912G > A [p.Ile260_Gln304del], c.778-2A > G and c.1495 + 2 T > G), substitution (c.407C > T) [p.Ala136Val] and deletion (c.635_636delAG [p.Glu212Valfs*84] and c.1324delC [p.Gln442Lysfs*21]) variants with reduced creatine transporter function validating their pathogenicity, including that of a previously unreported c.1324delC variant. The present assay adaptations provide an easy, reliable and discriminative manner for exploring creatine transporter activity and disease variations. It might apply to drug testing or other evaluations in the genetic and metabolic horizons covered by the emerging functions of creatine and its transporter, in a way, however, requiring and completed by additional studies on female patients and blood-brain barrier permeability properties of selected compounds. As a whole, the proposed assay of creatine transporter positively adds to currently existing measurements of this transporter activity, and determining on a large scale the extent of its exact suitability to detect female patients should condition in the future its transfer in clinical practice.

Keywords: Creatine; Creatine transporter; D(3)-creatine; Female carriers; Guanidino metabolites; Male hemizygotes; SLC6A8 gene; UPLC/tandem MS; X-linked disorder.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic, Inborn / genetics
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic, Inborn / metabolism*
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic, Inborn / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Creatine / deficiency*
  • Creatine / genetics
  • Creatine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mental Retardation, X-Linked / genetics
  • Mental Retardation, X-Linked / metabolism*
  • Mental Retardation, X-Linked / pathology
  • Mutation*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / deficiency*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Plasma Membrane Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins / deficiency*
  • Plasma Membrane Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Plasma Membrane Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Prognosis


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Plasma Membrane Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins
  • SLC6A8 protein, human
  • Creatine

Supplementary concepts

  • Creatine deficiency, X-linked