Distribution of monocarboxylate transporters MCT1 and MCT2 in rat retina

D. Z. Gerhart, R. L. Leino, L. R. Drewes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Transport of lactic acid and other monocarboxylates such as pyruvate and the ketone bodies through cellular membranes is facilitated by specific transport proteins. We used chicken polyclonal antibodies to the monocarboxylate transporters-1 and -2 to determine their cellular and subcellular distributions in rat retina, and we compared these distributions to those of the glucose transporters-1 and -3. Monocarboxylate transporter-1 was most highly expressed by the apical processes of retinal pigment epithelium that surround the outer segments of the photoreceptor cells. In contrast to glucose transporter-1, monocarboxylate transporter-1 was not detected on the basal membranes of pigment epithelium. The luminal and abluminal endothelial plasma membranes in retina also exhibited heavy labeling by antibody to monocarboxylate transporter-1. In addition, this transporter was associated with the Muller cell microvilli, the plasma membranes of the rod inner segments, and all retinal layers between the inner and external limiting membranes. Monocarboxylate transporter-2 was found to be abundantly expressed on the inner (basal) plasma membrane of Muller cells and by glial cell processes surrounding retinal microvessels. This transporter was also present in the plexiform and nuclear layers but was not detected beyond the external limiting membrane. Recent studies have shown that lactic acid transport is of particular importance at endothelial and epithelial barriers where membranes of adjoining cells are linked by tight junctions. Our results suggest that monocarboxylate transporter-1 functions to transport lactate between the retina and the blood, both at the retinal endothelium and the pigment epithelium. The location of monocarboxylate transporter-2 on glial foot processes surrounding retinal vessels suggests that this transporter is also important in blood-retinal lactate exchange. In addition, the abundance of these transporters in Muller cells and synaptic (plexiform) layers suggests that they function in lactate exchange between neurons and glia, supporting the notion that lactate plays a key role in neural metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-375
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (grants NS32754 and NS37764) and by the American Heart Association, Minnesota Affiliate. We thank Dr Anthony L. McCall, Oregon Health Sciences University, for providing the ALM3C antibody to rat GLUT3.


  • Blood-ocular barrier
  • Glucose
  • Lactate
  • Monocarboxylates
  • Retina
  • Transporters


Dive into the research topics of 'Distribution of monocarboxylate transporters MCT1 and MCT2 in rat retina'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this