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Functional expression of a proton-coupled organic cation (H+/OC) antiporter in human brain capillary endothelial cell line hCMEC/D3, a human blood–brain barrier model

Keita Shimomura1, Takashi Okura1, Sayaka Kato1, Pierre-Olivier Couraud234, Jean-Michel Schermann56, Tetsuya Terasaki7 and Yoshiharu Deguchi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Drug Disposition and Pharmacokinetics, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Teikyo University, 2-11-1 Kaga, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, 173-8605, Japan

2 INSERM, U1016, Institut Cochin, Paris, France

3 CNRS, UMR8104, Paris, France

4 Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France

5 Neuropsychopharmacologie des addiction (CNRS UMR 8206), Université Paris Decartes, Faculté de Pharmacie, Paris, France

6 INSERM U705, Neuropsychopharmacologie des addiction, Paris, France

7 Division of Membrane Transport and Drug Targeting, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

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Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 2013, 10:8  doi:10.1186/2045-8118-10-8

Published: 26 January 2013



Knowledge of the molecular basis and transport function of the human blood–brain barrier (BBB) is important for not only understanding human cerebral physiology, but also development of new central nervous system (CNS)-acting drugs. However, few studies have been done using human brain capillary endothelial cells, because human brain materials are difficult to obtain. The purpose of this study is to clarify the functional expression of a proton-coupled organic cation (H+/OC) antiporter in human brain capillary endothelial cell line hCMEC/D3, which has been recently developed as an in vitro human BBB model.


Diphenhydramine, [3H]pyrilamine and oxycodone were used as cationic drugs that proved to be H+/OC antiporter substrates. The in vitro uptake experiments by hCMEC/D3 cells were carried out under several conditions.


Diphenhydramine and [3H]pyrilamine were both transported into hCMEC/D3 cells in a time- and concentration-dependent manner with Km values of 59 μM and 19 μM, respectively. Each inhibited uptake of the other in a competitive manner, suggesting that a common mechanism is involved in their transport. The diphenhydramine uptake was significantly inhibited by amantadine and quinidine, but not tetraethylammonium and 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (substrates for well-known organic cation transporters). The uptake was inhibited by metabolic inhibitors, but was insensitive to extracellular sodium and membrane potential. Further, the uptake was increased by extracellular alkalization and intracellular acidification. These transport properties are completely consistent with those of previously characterized H+/OC antiporter in rat BBB.


The present results suggest that H+/OC antiporter is functionally expressed in hCMEC/D3 cells.

Human blood–brain barrier; Human BBB model cell; hCMEC/D3 cells; Proton-coupled organic cation antiporter; Organic cation transporter; Transport function; Diphenhydramine; Pyrilamine; Oxycodone; Active transport; Real-time PCR