In cultured human fibroblasts, SNAT transporters (System A) account for the accumulation of non-essential neutral amino acids, are adaptively up-regulated upon amino acid deprivation and play a major role in cell volume recovery upon hypertonic stress. No information is instead available on the expression and activity of SNAT transporters in human bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC), although they are increasingly investigated for their staminal and immunomodulatory properties and used for several therapeutic applications. The uptake of glutamine and proline, two substrates of SNAT1 and SNAT2 transporters, was measured in primary human MSC and an MSC line. The amino acid analogue MeAIB, a specific substrate of these carriers, has been used to selectively inhibit SNAT-dependent transport of glutamine and, through its sodium-dependent transport, as an indicator of SNAT1/2 activity. SNAT1/2 expression and localization were assessed with RT-PCR and confocal microscopy, respectively. Cell volume was assessed from urea distribution space. In all these experiments, primary human fibroblasts were used as the positive control for SNAT expression and activity. Compared with fibroblasts, MSC have a lower SNAT1 expression and hardly detectable membrane localization of both SNAT1 and SNAT2. Moreover, they exhibit no sodium-dependent MeAIB uptake or MeAIB-inhibitable glutamine transport, and exhibit a lower ability to accumulate glutamine and proline than fibroblasts. MSC exhibited an only marginal increase in MeAIB transport upon amino acid starvation and did not recover cell volume after hypertonic stress. In conclusion, the activity of SNAT transporters is low in human MSC. MSC adaptation to amino acid shortage is expected to rely on intracellular synthesis, given the absence of an effective up-regulation of the SNAT transporters.
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