The SLC6 family of structurally related, Na+-dependent transporter proteins is responsible for presynaptic reuptake of the majority of neurotransmitters. Within this family are a number of orphan transporters, including NTT4/XT1 (SLC6A17), a protein first identified over 15 years ago. NTT4/XT1 is expressed exclusively in the nervous system and specifically on synaptic vesicles in glutamatergic and some GABAergic neurons. Despite extensive efforts by a number of groups, no substrate has been reported for NTT4/XT1. Here we use a combination of molecular manipulations to increase expression of the NTT4/XT1 protein at the plasma membrane and to directly demonstrate that it catalyzes neutral amino acid transport. The substrate profile of the NTT4/XT1-dependent activity is similar to that of the closely related B0AT2/SBAT1 (SLC6A15), including a submillimolar apparent affinity for proline and leucine and a low millimolar apparent affinity for glutamine. The transport activity is Na+-dependent and Cl–-independent and is inhibited by low pH as is SLC6A15, suggesting redundant roles for these proteins. This characterization of NTT4/XT1 offers important insights into neurotransmitter metabolism as well as the mechanistic differences among the structurally related, but functionally divergent, SLC6 proteins
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