, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 635-644

Blood-Brain Barrier Carrier-Mediated Transport and Brain Metabolism of Amino Acids

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Abstract

The transport of neutral amino acids through the brain capillary endothelial wall, which makes up the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in vivo, is an important control point for the overall regulation of cerebral metabolism, including protein synthesis and neurotransmitter production. The Michaelis-Menten kinetics of BBB amino acid transport have been investigated in vivo with the brain uptake index (BUI) technique, and in vitro with the isolated human brain capillary preparation. The only amino acid that is albumin-bound is tryptophan, and the majority of albumin-bound tryptophan in the plasma is available for transport through the BBB via an enhanced dissociation mechanism that operates at the surface of the brain capillary endothelium. The availability in brain of amino acids is predicted from the BBB Km values to be sharply influenced by supra-physiological concentrations of phenyalanine in the 200–500 μM range. Moreover, the measurement of cerebral protein synthesis with an internal carotid artery perfusion technique and HPLC-based measurements of aminoacyl-transfer RNA specific activities shows an inverse relationship between cerebral protein synthesis and plasma phenyalanine concentrations in the 200–500 μM range. These findings indicate the neurotoxicity of hyperphenylalninemia is not restricted to the phenylketonuria range of approximately 2000 μM, but is exerted in the supra-physiological range of 200–500 μM.