Valproic acid is an anticonvulsant widely used for the treatment of epilepsy. However, valproic acid is known to show fetal toxicity, including teratogenicity. In the present study, to elucidate the mechanisms of valproic acid transport across the blood-placental barrier, we carried out transcellular transport and uptake experiments with human placental choriocarcinoma epithelial cells (BeWo cells) in culture. The permeability coefficient of [3H]valproic acid in BeWo cells for the apical-to-basolateral flux was greater than that for the opposite flux, suggesting a higher unidirectional transport in the fetal direction. The uptake of [3H]valproic acid from the apical side was temperature-dependent and enhanced under acidic pH. In the presence of 50 μM carbonyl cyanide p-trifluoromethoxylhydrazone, the uptake of [3H]valproic acid was significantly reduced. A metabolic inhibitor, 10 mM sodium azide, also significantly reduced the uptake of [3H]valproic acid. Therefore, valproic acid is actively transported in a pH-dependent manner on the brush-border membrane of BeWo cells. Kinetic analysis of valproic acid uptake revealed the involvement of a non-saturable component and a saturable component. The Michaelis constant for the saturable transport (Kt) was smaller under acidic pH, suggesting a proton-linked active transport mechanism for valproic acid in BeWo cells. In the inhibitory experiments, some short-chain fatty acids, such as acetic acid, lactic acid, propanoic acid and butyric acid, and medium-chain fatty acids, such as hexanoic acid and octanoic acid, inhibited the uptake of [3H]valproic acid. The uptake of [3H]valproic acid was also significantly decreased in the presence of 4,4′-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2′-disulfonic acid, salicylic acid and furosemide, which are well-known inhibitors of the anion exchange system. Moreover, p-aminohippuric acid significantly reduced the uptake of [3H]valproic acid. These results suggest that an active transport mechanism for valproic acid exists on the brush-border membrane of placental trophoblast cells and operates in a proton-linked manner.
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