Low-affinity uptake of the fluorescent organic cation 4-(4-(dimethylamino)styryl)-N-methylpyridinium iodide (4-Di-1-ASP) in BeWo cells

Erik Rytting, Jordan Bryan, Marylee Southard, Kenneth L. Audus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Understanding the mechanisms of transport processes in the placenta can improve the safety and efficacy of drug delivery during pregnancy. Functional studies of organic cation transporters (OCTs) are usually carried out using radioactivity, and a fluorescent marker would add flexibility to experimental methods. As a published substrate for OCT1 and OCT2, the fluorescent compound 4-(4-(dimethylamino)styryl)-N-methylpyridinium iodide (4-Di-1-ASP) was chosen as a candidate for studying placental OCT function in BeWo cells. The expression of OCT1 and OCT2 was also investigated in BeWo cells, an established human choriocarcinoma trophoblastic cell line frequently used as an in vitro model of the rate-limiting barrier for maternal-fetal exchange of drugs and nutrients within the placenta. 4-Di-1-ASP was taken up into BeWo cells by a low-affinity, carrier-mediated process exhibiting a Km of 580 ± 110 μM and Vmax of 97 ± 9 nmol/mg protein/30 min, and asymmetric transport was observed, with greater permeability in the apical to basolateral (maternal-to-fetal) direction. However, RT-PCR revealed no expression of OCT1 or OCT2 in either BeWo cells or primary cultured human cytotrophoblast cells, and OCT substrates such as TEA and choline did not inhibit the uptake of 4-Di-1-ASP. Although the uptake of this fluorescent compound in BeWo cells is not mediated by an OCT, the colocalization experiments with fluorescence microscopy and inhibition studies confirmed significant mitochondrial uptake of 4-Di-1-ASP. Transport of 4-Di-1-ASP into the nuclear region of BeWo cells was also observed, which is likely mediated by a nucleoside transporter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)891-900
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • BeWo cells
  • Drug transport
  • OCT1
  • OCT2
  • Organic cation transporters
  • Placenta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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