Effects of low oxygen levels on the expression and function of transporter OCTN2 in BeWo cells

Erik Rytting, Kenneth L. Audus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Although hypoxia is normal in early pregnancy, low placental oxygen concentrations later in pregnancy are often linked to complications such as pre-eclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. The effects of low oxygen levels on drug and nutrient uptake via the organic cation transporter OCTN2 has been studied in BeWo cells, an in-vitro model of human trophoblast. BeWo cells were cultured under 20% (control) or 2% O2 (hypoxia) for 48 h before each experiment. In-vitro hypoxia was also simulated by the addition of CoCl2 to the cell culture medium. RT-PCR indicated increased transcription of OCTN2 in BeWo cells cultured under hypoxia, but Western blots did not show a corresponding increase in the amount of OCTN2 protein in the hypoxic cells compared with control. Hypoxia resulted in significant reductions in OCTN2-mediated carnitine uptake. Decreased placental transport of carnitine may lead to symptoms of carnitine deficiency in infants from hypoxic pregnancies, whether caused by high altitude, pre-eclampsia or other factors. The OCTN1 substrate ergothioneine reversed the effects of hypoxia on carnitine transport, but identical concentrations of N-acetylcysteine, another water-soluble intracellular antioxidant, did not have the same effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1095-1102
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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