Small molecule inhibitors provide insights into the relevance of LAT1 and LAT2 in materno-foetal amino acid transport

J Cell Mol Med. 2020 Nov;24(21):12681-12693. doi: 10.1111/jcmm.15840. Epub 2020 Oct 1.


The placenta supplies the foetus with critical nutrients such as essential amino acids (AA, eg leucine) for development and growth. It also represents a cellular barrier which is formed by a polarized, differentiated syncytiotrophoblast (STB) monolayer. Active Na+ -independent leucine transport across the placenta is mainly attributed to the System L transporters LAT1/SLC7A5 and LAT2/SLC7A8. This study explored the influence of trophoblast differentiation on the activity of LAT1/LAT2 and the relevance of LAT1/LAT2 in leucine uptake and transfer in trophoblasts by applying specific small molecule inhibitors (JPH203/JG336/JX009). L-leucine uptake (total dose = 167 μmol/L) was sensitive to LAT1-specific inhibition by JPH203 (EC50 = 2.55 µmol/L). The inhibition efficiency of JPH203 was increased by an additional methoxy group in the JPH203-derivate JG336 (EC50 = 1.99 µmol/L). Interestingly, JX009 showed efficient System L inhibition (EC50 = 2.35 µmol/L) and was the most potent inhibitor of leucine uptake in trophoblasts. The application of JPH203 and JX009 in Transwell® -based leucine transfer revealed LAT1 as the major accumulative transporter at the apical membrane, but other System L transporters such as LAT2 as rate-limiting for leucine efflux across the basal membrane. Therefore, differential specificity of the applied inhibitors allowed for estimation of the contribution of LAT1 and LAT2 in materno-foetal AA transfer and their potential impact in pregnancy diseases associated with impaired foetal growth.

Keywords: BeWo; LAT1 (SLC7A5); LAT2 (SLC7A8); Transwell; leucine uptake; monolayer; placenta; transplacental amino acid transport; trophoblast; trophoblast differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Transport System y+ / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Fusion Regulatory Protein 1, Heavy Chain / metabolism
  • Fusion Regulatory Protein 1, Light Chains / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Large Neutral Amino Acid-Transporter 1 / metabolism*
  • Leucine / metabolism*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange* / drug effects
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Trophoblasts / cytology
  • Trophoblasts / drug effects
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Amino Acid Transport System y+
  • Fusion Regulatory Protein 1, Heavy Chain
  • Fusion Regulatory Protein 1, Light Chains
  • Large Neutral Amino Acid-Transporter 1
  • SLC3A2 protein, human
  • SLC7A5 protein, human
  • SLC7A8 protein, human
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Sodium
  • Leucine