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Neuroscience. 2003;122(3):677-88.

Highly differential expression of the monocarboxylate transporters MCT2 and MCT4 in the developing rat brain.

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  • 1Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, University of Oslo, Sognsvannsv. 9, Pb. 1105 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway.


Monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs) play an important role in the metabolism of all cells. They mediate the transport of lactate and pyruvate but also some other substrates such as ketone bodies. It has been proposed that glial cells release monocarboxylates to fuel neighbouring neurons. A key element in this hypothesis is the existence of neuronal MCTs. Amongst the three MCTs known to be expressed in the brain (MCT1, 2 and 4) only MCT2 has been found in neurons. Here we have studied the expression pattern of MCT2 during postnatal development. By use of immunoperoxidase and double immunofluorescence microscopy we report that neuronal MCT2 occurs in most brain areas, including the hippocampus and cerebellum, from birth to adult. MCT2 is also expressed in specific subpopulations of astrocytes. Neuronal MCT2 is most abundant in the first 3 postnatal weeks and thereafter decreases toward adulthood. In contrast to MCT2, MCT4 is exclusively present in astroglia during all stages of development. Furthermore, MCT4 expression is very low at birth and reaches adult level by P14. Our results are consistent with previous data suggesting that in the immature brain much of the energy demand is met by monocarboxylates and ketone bodies.

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