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The reduced folate carrier (Rfc1; Slc19a1) mediated transport of reduced folates and antifolate drugs such as methotrexate (MTX) play an essential role in physiological folate homeostasis and MTX cancer chemotherapy. As no systematic reports are as yet available correlating Rfc1 gene expression and protein levels in all tissues crucial for folate and antifolate uptake, storage or elimination, we investigated gene and protein expression of rat Rfc1 (rRfc1) in selected tissues. This included the generation of a specific anti-rRfc1 antibody. Rabbits were immunised with isolated rRfc1 peptides producing specific anti-rRfc1 antiserum targeted to the intracellular C-terminus of the carrier. Using RT-PCR analysis, high rRfc1 transcript levels were detected in colon, kidney, brain, thymus, and spleen. Moderate rRfc1 gene expression was observed in small intestine, liver, bone marrow, lung, and testes whereas transcript levels were negligible in heart, skeletal muscle or leukocytes. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed strong carrier expression in the apical membrane of tunica mucosa epithelial cells of small intestine and colon, in the brush-border membrane of choroid plexus epithelial cells or in endothelial cells of small vessels in brain and heart. Additionally, high rRfc1 protein levels were localized in the basolateral membrane of renal tubular epithelial cells, in the plasma membrane of periportal hepatocytes, and sertoli cells of the testes. Taken together, our results demonstrated that rRfc1 is expressed almost ubiquitously but to very different levels. The predominant tissue distribution supports the essential role of Rfc1 in physiological folate homeostasis. Moreover, our results may contribute to understand antifolate pharmacokinetics and selected organ toxicity associated with MTX chemotherapy.
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