The evolving biology of the proton-coupled folate transporter: New insights into regulation, structure, and mechanism



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

FASEB Journal








The human proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT; SLC46A1) or hPCFT was identified in 2006 as the principal folate transporter involved in the intestinal absorption of dietary folates. A rare autosomal recessive hereditary folate malabsorption syndrome is attributable to human SLC46A1 variants. The recognition that hPCFT was highly expressed in many tumors stimulated substantial interest in its potential for cytotoxic drug targeting, taking advantage of its high-level transport activity under acidic pH conditions that characterize many tumors and its modest expression in most normal tissues. To better understand the basis for variations in hPCFT levels between tissues including human tumors, studies have examined the transcriptional regulation of hPCFT including the roles of CpG hypermethylation and critical transcription factors and cis elements. Additional focus involved identifying key structural and functional determinants of hPCFT transport that, combined with homology models based on structural homologies to the bacterial transporters GlpT and LacY, have enabled new structural and mechanistic insights. Recently, cryo-electron microscopy structures of chicken PCFT in a substrate-free state and in complex with the antifolate pemetrexed were reported, providing further structural insights into determinants of (anti)folate recognition and the mechanism of pH-regulated (anti)folate transport by PCFT. Like many major facilitator proteins, hPCFT exists as a homo-oligomer, and evidence suggests that homo-oligomerization of hPCFT monomeric proteins may be important for its intracellular trafficking and/or transport function. Better understanding of the structure, function and regulation of hPCFT should facilitate the rational development of new therapeutic strategies for conditions associated with folate deficiency, as well as cancer.

Open Access

Green Accepted