The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is formed by the presence of tight junction complexes between brain endothelial cells that restrict paracellular permeability. As a consequence, a number of transport proteins are expressed on cerebral endothelial cells to facilitate the transport of nutrients into the brain. Although the modulation of barrier tight junction properties by glial-conditioned medium and by second messengers is well established, little is known about the effects of these factors on carrier-mediated 131313 transport processes. The ECV304 cell line shows an endothelial phenotype and can be induced to upregulate certain BBB features in the presence of glial factors. In the present study, we have examined the effect of conditioned medium derived from rat C6-glioma cells (C6CM) on the function of the L-system amino acid transporter in ECV304 cells, using L-leucine as the model substrate, and have determined whether the changes observed can be mimicked by modulating intracellular cAMP levels. ECV304 cells exposed to C6CM exhibited a significant increase in both the affinity of leucine transport and the diffusional constant (Michaelis-Menten), while the maximal transport capacity remained unchanged. Conversely, acute exposure to modulators of the PKA and PKC second messenger pathways was found to reduce significantly the maximal transport capacity and diffusion constants, while transport affinity remained unchanged. In both cases, the maximal flux of leucine was increased, indicating transport of greater efficiency. This study indicates that exposure of ECV304 cells to C6CM provides an influence inducing L-system transport properties characteristic of brain endothelial cells. Furthermore, it appears that L-system-mediated transport of amino acids can be modulated by several distinct pathways. (C) 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.