DMT1: a mammalian transporter for multiple metals

Biometals. 2003 Mar;16(1):41-54. doi: 10.1023/a:1020702213099.


DMT1 has four names, transports as many as eight metals, may have four or more isoforms and carries out its transport for multiple purposes. This review is a start at sorting out these multiplicities. A G185R mutation results in diminished gastrointestinal iron uptake and decreased endosomal iron exit in microcytic mice and Belgrade rats. Comparison of mutant to normal rodents is one analytical tool. Ectopic expression is another. Antibodies that distinguish the isoforms are also useful. Two mRNA isoforms differ in the 3' UTR: +IRE DMT1 has an IRE (Iron Responsive Element) but -IRE DMT1 lacks this feature. The +/-IRE proteins differ in the distal 18 or 25 amino acid residues after shared identity for the proximal 543 residues. A major function is serving as the apical iron transporter in the lumen of the gut. The +IRE isoform appears to have that role. Another role is endosomal exit of iron. Some evidence indicts the -IRE isoform for this function. In our ectopic expression assay for metal uptake, four metals--Fe2+, Mn2+, Ni2+ and Co2+--respond to the normal DMT1 cDNA but not the G185R mutant. Two metals did not--Cd2+ and Zn2+--and two--Cu2+ and Pb2+--remain to be tested. In competition experiments in the same assay, Cd2+, Cu2+ and Pb2+ inhibit Mn2+ uptake but Zn2+ did not. In rodent mutants, Fe and Mn appear more dependent on DMT1 than Cu and Zn. Experiments based on ectopic expression, specific antibodies that inhibit metal uptake and labeling data indicate that Fe3+ uptake depends on a different pathway in multiple cells. Two isoforms localize differently in a number of cell types. Unexpectedly, the -IRE isoform is in the nuclei of cells with neuronal properties. While the function of -IRE DMT1 in the nucleus is speculative, one may safely infer that this localization identifies new role(s) for this multifunctional transporter. Management of toxic challenges is another function related to metal homeostasis. Airways represent a gateway tissue for metal entry. Preliminary evidence using specific PCR primers and antibodies specific to the two isoforms indicates that -IRE mRNA and protein increase in response to exposure to metal in lungs and in a cell culture model; the +IRE form is unresponsive. Thus the -IRE form could be part of a detoxification system in which +IRE DMT1 does not participate. How does iron status affect other metals' toxicity? In the case of Mn, iron deficiency may enhance cellular responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cation Transport Proteins / chemistry
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cations, Divalent / metabolism
  • Enterocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iron-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Iron-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Iron-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mammals
  • Metals / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Cations, Divalent
  • Iron-Binding Proteins
  • Metals
  • Protein Isoforms
  • solute carrier family 11- (proton-coupled divalent metal ion transporters), member 2