The relationship between the transport of thyroid hormones and that of amino acids was examined by measuring the uptake of amino acids that are characteristic substrates of systems L, A, and N, and the effect of 3,3',5-triiodo-L-thyronine (T3) on this uptake, in cultured astrocytes. Tryptophan and leucine uptakes were rapid, Na(+)-independent, and efficiently inhibited by T3 (half-inhibition at approximately 2 microM). Two Na(+)-independent L-like systems (L1 and L2), common to leucine and aromatic amino acids, were characterized kinetically. System L2 had a low affinity for leucine and tryptophan (Km = 0.3-0.9 mM). The high-affinity system L1 (Km approximately 10 microM for both amino acids) was competitively inhibited by T3 with a Ki of 2-3 microM (close to the T3 transport Km). Several T3 analogues inhibited system L1 and the T3 transport system similarly. Glutamine uptake and alpha-(methylamino)isobutyric acid uptake were, respectively, two and 200 times lower than tryptophan and leucine uptakes. T3 had little effect on the uptakes of glutamine and alpha -(methylamino)isobutyric acid. The results indicate that the T3 transport system and system L1 are related.