American journal of physiology. Cell physiology

Noncompetitive blocking of human GLUT1 hexose transporter by methylxanthines reveals an exofacial regulatory binding site.

PMID 22673619


Glucose transporter (GLUT)1 has become an attractive target to block glucose uptake in malignant cells since most cancer cells overexpress GLUT1 and are sensitive to glucose deprivation. Methylxanthines are natural compounds that inhibit glucose uptake; however, the mechanism of inhibition remains unknown. Here, we used a combination of binding and glucose transport kinetic assays to analyze in detail the effects of caffeine, pentoxifylline, and theophylline on hexose transport in human erythrocytes. The displacement of previously bound cytochalasin B revealed a direct interaction between the methylxanthines and GLUT1. Methylxanthines behave as noncompetitive blockers (inhibition constant values of 2-3 mM) in exchange and zero-trans efflux assays, whereas mixed inhibition with a notable uncompetitive component is observed in zero-trans influx assays (inhibition constant values of 5-12 mM). These results indicate that methylxanthines do not bind to either exofacial or endofacial d-glucose-binding sites but instead interact at a different site accessible by the external face of the transporter. Additionally, infinite-cis exit assays (Sen-Widdas assays) showed that only pentoxifylline disturbed d-glucose for binding to the exofacial substrate site. Interestingly, coinhibition assays showed that methylxanthines bind to a common site on the transporter. We concluded that there is a methylxanthine regulatory site on the external surface of the transporter, which is close but distinguishable from the d-glucose external site. Therefore, the methylxanthine moiety may become an attractive framework for the design of novel specific noncompetitive facilitative GLUT inhibitors.

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