Glutamate transporters from the central nervous system play a crucial role in the clearance of the transmitter from the synaptic cleft. Glutamate is cotransported with sodium ions, and the electrogenic translocation cycle is completed by countertransport of potassium. Mutants that cannot interact with potassium are only capable of catalyzing electroneutral exchange. Here we identify a residue involved in controlling substrate recognition in the neuronal transporter EAAC-1 that transports acidic amino acids as well as cysteine. When arginine 447, a residue conserved in all glutamate transporters, is replaced by cysteine, transport of glutamate or aspartate is abolished, but sodium-dependent cysteine transport is left intact. Analysis of other substitution mutants shows that the replacement of arginine rather than the introduced cysteine is responsible for the observed phenotype. In further contrast to wild type, acidic amino acids are unable to inhibit cysteine transport in R447C-EAAC-1, indicating that the selectivitry change is manifested at the binding step. Electrophysiological analysis shows that in the mutant cysteine, transport has become electroneutral, and its interaction with the countertransported potassium is impaired. Thus arginine 447 plays a pivotal role in the sequential interaction of acidic amino acids and potassium with the transporter and, thereby, constitutes one of the molecular determinants of coupling their fluxes.