Consequences of NaCT/SLC13A5/mINDY deficiency: good versus evil, separated only by the blood-brain barrier

Biochem J. 2021 Feb 12;478(3):463-486. doi: 10.1042/BCJ20200877.


NaCT/SLC13A5 is a Na+-coupled transporter for citrate in hepatocytes, neurons, and testes. It is also called mINDY (mammalian ortholog of 'I'm Not Dead Yet' in Drosophila). Deletion of Slc13a5 in mice leads to an advantageous phenotype, protecting against diet-induced obesity, and diabetes. In contrast, loss-of-function mutations in SLC13A5 in humans cause a severe disease, EIEE25/DEE25 (early infantile epileptic encephalopathy-25/developmental epileptic encephalopathy-25). The difference between mice and humans in the consequences of the transporter deficiency is intriguing but probably explainable by the species-specific differences in the functional features of the transporter. Mouse Slc13a5 is a low-capacity transporter, whereas human SLC13A5 is a high-capacity transporter, thus leading to quantitative differences in citrate entry into cells via the transporter. These findings raise doubts as to the utility of mouse models to evaluate NaCT biology in humans. NaCT-mediated citrate entry in the liver impacts fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis, fatty acid oxidation, glycolysis, and gluconeogenesis; in neurons, this process is essential for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters glutamate, GABA, and acetylcholine. Thus, SLC13A5 deficiency protects against obesity and diabetes based on what the transporter does in hepatocytes, but leads to severe brain deficits based on what the transporter does in neurons. These beneficial versus detrimental effects of SLC13A5 deficiency are separable only by the blood-brain barrier. Can we harness the beneficial effects of SLC13A5 deficiency without the detrimental effects? In theory, this should be feasible with selective inhibitors of NaCT, which work only in the liver and do not get across the blood-brain barrier.

Keywords: EIEE25/DEE25; NACT/SLC13A5/mINDY; blood-brain barrier; brain; liver; metabolic syndrome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Citric Acid / metabolism
  • Citric Acid Cycle / genetics
  • Dental Enamel / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters / deficiency
  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism
  • Female
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Ion Transport
  • Longevity / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Spasms, Infantile / genetics
  • Species Specificity
  • Symporters / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Symporters / deficiency*
  • Symporters / genetics
  • Symporters / physiology


  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Indy protein, Drosophila
  • SLC13A5 protein, human
  • Slc13a5 protein, mouse
  • Symporters
  • Citric Acid