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The mitochondrial fluorescent dye rhodamine 123 is a high-affinity substrate for organic cation transporters (OCTs) 1 and 2



Rhodamine 123 is a fluorescent cationic dye commonly used as a mitochondrial probe and known or suspected to be transported by certain drug membrane transporters. The present study was designed to characterize the putative interactions of rhodamine 123 with human organic cation transporter (OCT) 1 and OCT2. Intracellular uptake of the dye was demonstrated to be enhanced in both hOCT1- and hOCT2-overexpressing HEK293 cells when compared with control HEK293 cells. This increase of rhodamine 123 influxes was found to be a saturable carrier-mediated process, with low Km values (Km = 0.54 μm and K= 0.61 μm for transport of the dye in hOCT1- and hOCT2-positive HEK293 cells, respectively). Known inhibitors of hOCT1 and hOCT2 activities such as verapamil, amitriptyline, prazosin, and quinine were next demonstrated to decrease rhodamine 123 accumulation in hOCT1- and hOCT2-overexpressing HEK293 cells. In addition, the dye was found to inhibit hOCT1- and hOCT2-mediated uptake of tetraethylammonium (TEA), a model substrate for both hOCT1 and hOCT2; rhodamine 123 appeared nevertheless to be a more potent inhibitor of hOCT1-mediated TEA transport (IC50 = 0.37 μm) than of that mediated by hOCT2 (IC50 = 61.5 μm). Taken together, these data demonstrate that rhodamine 123 is a high-affinity substrate for both hOCT1 and hOCT2. This dye may be therefore useful for fluorimetrically investigating cellular hOCT1 or hOCT2 activity, knowing, however, that other factors potentially contributing to cellular accumulation of rhodamine 123, including mitochondrial membrane potential or expression of the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein, have also to be considered.

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