Molecular biology of mammalian plasma membrane amino acid transporters

Physiol Rev. 1998 Oct;78(4):969-1054. doi: 10.1152/physrev.1998.78.4.969.


Molecular biology entered the field of mammalian amino acid transporters in 1990-1991 with the cloning of the first GABA and cationic amino acid transporters. Since then, cDNA have been isolated for more than 20 mammalian amino acid transporters. All of them belong to four protein families. Here we describe the tissue expression, transport characteristics, structure-function relationship, and the putative physiological roles of these transporters. Wherever possible, the ascription of these transporters to known amino acid transport systems is suggested. Significant contributions have been made to the molecular biology of amino acid transport in mammals in the last 3 years, such as the construction of knockouts for the CAT-1 cationic amino acid transporter and the EAAT2 and EAAT3 glutamate transporters, as well as a growing number of studies aimed to elucidate the structure-function relationship of the amino acid transporter. In addition, the first gene (rBAT) responsible for an inherited disease of amino acid transport (cystinuria) has been identified. Identifying the molecular structure of amino acid transport systems of high physiological relevance (e.g., system A, L, N, and x(c)- and of the genes responsible for other aminoacidurias as well as revealing the key molecular mechanisms of the amino acid transporters are the main challenges of the future in this field.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acids*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Secondary


  • Amino Acids
  • Carrier Proteins