Organic anion transporters (OATs) 1 and 3 are, besides being uptake transporters, key in several cellular metabolic pathways. The underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. Hence, we used human conditionally immortalized proximal tubule epithelial cells (ciPTEC) overexpressing OAT1 or OAT3 to gain insight into these mechanisms. In ciPTEC-OAT1 and -OAT3, extracellular lactate levels were decreased (by 77% and 71%, respectively), while intracellular ATP levels remained unchanged, suggesting a shift towards an oxidative phenotype upon OAT1 or OAT3 overexpression. This was confirmed by increased respiration of ciPTEC-OAT1 and -OAT3 (1.4-fold), a decreased sensitivity to respiratory inhibition, and characterized by a higher demand on mitochondrial oxidative capacity. In-depth profiling of tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle metabolites revealed reduced levels of intermediates converging into α-ketoglutarate in ciPTEC-OAT1 and -OAT3, which via 2-hydroxyglutarate metabolism explains the increased respiration. These interactions with TCA cycle metabolites were in agreement with metabolomic network modeling studies published earlier. Further studies using OAT or oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) inhibitors confirmed our idea that OATs are responsible for increased use and synthesis of α-ketoglutarate. In conclusion, our results indicate an increased α-ketoglutarate efflux by OAT1 and OAT3, resulting in a metabolic shift towards an oxidative phenotype.
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