2019 年 139 巻 6 号 p. 847-852
Neurons differentiated from neural stem cells mature to form a neuronal network. Neuronal maturation enables neurotransmission that regulates brain function. Therefore, abnormal neuronal differentiation causes dysfunction in neurotransmission, and is involved in the onset of various neuropsychiatric disorders. Most of the drugs currently available for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders act on membrane receptors and reuptake transporters of neurotransmitters, and control neurotransmission. These membrane proteins have a high affinity for a specific neurotransmitter, and are highly expressed in synapses. By contrast, xenobiotic transporters have a relatively lower affinity for neurotransmitters, but widely recognize various organic compounds, and are also expressed in brain neural cells. It has remained largely unknown why such xenobiotic transporters are expressed in neural cells that play a key role in neurotransmission. We have therefore attempted to clarify the physiological roles of organic cation transporters (OCTs) in neural stem cells in order to obtain new insight into the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. The carnitine/organic cation transporter OCTN1/SLC22A4 is expressed at much higher levels in neural stem cells compared with other OCTs, and promotes their differentiation into neurons through the uptake of the food-derived hydrophilic antioxidant ergothioneine after oral administration. In this review, we introduce current topics on the physiological/pathophysiological roles of OCTs in neural stem cells, and discuss their possible application to the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.