The anticonvulsant valproate increases the turnover rate of γ-aminobutyric acid transporters

Richard D. Whitlow, Ayelet Sacher, Donald D.F. Loo, Nathan Nelson, Sepehr Eskandari*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Valproate is an important anticonvulsant currently in clinical use for the treatment of seizures. We used electrophysiological and tracer uptake methods to examine the effect of valproate on a γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transporter (mouse GAT3) expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes. In the absence of GABA, valproate (up to 50 mM) had no noticeable effect on the steady-state electrogenic properties of mGAT3. In the presence of GABA, however, valproate enhanced the GABA-evoked steady-state inward current in a dose-dependent manner with a half-maximal concentration of 4.6 ± 0.5 mM. Maximal enhancement of the GABA-evoked current was 275 ± 10%. Qualitatively similar observations were obtained for human GAT1 and mouse GAT4. The valproate enhancement did not alter the Na+ or Cl- dependence of the steady-state GABA-evoked currents. Uptake experiments under voltage clamp suggested that the valproate enhancement of the GABA-evoked current was matched by an enhancement in GABA uptake. Thus, despite the increase in GABA-evoked current, ion/GABA co-transport remained tightly coupled. Uptake experiments indicated that valproate is not transported by mouse GAT3 in the absence or presence of GABA. Valproate also enhanced the rate of the partial steps involved in transporter presteady-state charge movements. We propose that valproate increases the turnover rate of GABA transporters by an allosteric mechanism. The data suggest that at its therapeutic concentration, valproate may enhance the activity of neuronal and glial GABA transporters by up to 10%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17716-17726
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number20
StatePublished - 16 May 2003


FundersFunder number
National Institute of General Medical SciencesS06GM053933


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