We have measured rates of uptake of arginine, glutamine, glutamate, serine, phenylalanine and glycine in Xenopus laevis oocytes cultured for periods of up to 24h in saline in the presence or absence of a mixture of 20 amino acids at concentrations approximating those in Xenopus plasma. Amino acid supplementation increased the total intracellular amino acid concentration from 8.2 to 18.4 nmol per oocyte. Specific Na(+)-dependent amino acid transporters (systems B0,+, Xag-) exhibit 'adaptive regulation' (up-regulation during amino acid deprivation and down-regulation during amino acid supplementation). Na(+)-independent transporters of glutamate, glutamine and glycine (including system asc) display an opposite modulation in activity, which may help to combat amino-acid-induced oxidative stress by increasing the supply of glutathione precursors. Single amino acids at physiological plasma concentrations (0.47 mmol l-1 L-alanine, 0.08 mmol l-1 L-glutamate) mimicked at least some effects of the amino acid mixture. The mechanisms of transport modulation do not appear to include trans-amino acid or membrane potential effects and, in the case of Na(+)-independent transport, are independent of protein or mRNA synthesis. Furthermore, activation of protein kinase C by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate did not significantly affect endogenous glutamine and glutamate transport. The Xenopus oocyte appears to possess endogenous signalling mechanisms for selectively modulating the activity of amino acid transport proteins expressed in its surface membranes, a factor for consideration when using oocytes as an expression system for structure-function studies of cloned amino acid transporters.

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