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J Biol Chem. 1997 Aug 8;272(32):19951-7.

Adaptive regulation of the cationic amino acid transporter-1 (Cat-1) in Fao cells.

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Department of Nutrition, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


The regulation of the high affinity cationic amino acid transporter Cat-1 in Fao rat hepatoma cells by amino acid availability has been studied. Cat-1 mRNA level increased (3-fold) in 4 h in response to amino acid starvation and remained high for at least 24 h. This induction was independent of the presence of serum in the media and transcription and protein synthesis were required for induction to occur. When Fao cells were shifted from amino acid-depleted media to amino acid-fed media, the levels of the induced cat-1 mRNA returned to the basal level. In amino acid-fed cells, accumulation of cat-1 mRNA was dependent on protein synthesis, indicating that a labile protein is required to sustain cat-1 mRNA level. No change in the transcription rate of the cat-1 gene during amino acid starvation was observed, indicating that cat-1 is regulated at a post-transcriptional step. System y+ mediated transport of arginine was reduced by 50% in 1 h and by 70% in 24 h after amino acid starvation. However, when 24-h amino acid-starved Fao cells were preloaded with 2 mM lysine or arginine for 1 h prior to the transport assays, arginine uptake was trans-stimulated by 5-fold. This stimulation was specific for cationic amino acids, since alanine, proline, or leucine had no effect. These data lead to the hypothesis that amino acid starvation results in an increased cat-1 mRNA level to support synthesis of additional Cat-1 protein. The following lines of evidence support the hypothesis: (i) the use of inhibitors of protein synthesis in starved cells inhibits the trans-zero transport of arginine; (ii) cells starved for 1-24 h exhibited an increase of trans-stimulated arginine transport activity for the first 6 h and had no loss of activity at 24 h, suggesting that constant replenishment of the transporter protein occurs; (iii) immunofluorescent staining of 24-h fed and starved cells for cat-1 showed similar cell surface distribution; (iv) new protein synthesis is not required for trans-stimulation of arginine transport upon refeeding of 24-h starved cells. We conclude that the increased level of cat-1 mRNA in response to amino acid starvation support the synthesis of Cat-1 protein during starvation and increased amino acid transport upon substrate presentation. Therefore, the cat-1 mRNA content is regulated by a derepression/repression mechanism in response to amino acid availability. We propose that the amino acid-signal transduction pathway consists of a series of steps which include the post-transcriptional regulation of amino acid transporter genes.

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