The sodium/iodide Symporter (NIS): characterization, regulation, and medical significance

Endocr Rev. 2003 Feb;24(1):48-77. doi: 10.1210/er.2001-0029.


The Na(+)/I(-) symporter (NIS) is an integral plasma membrane glycoprotein that mediates active I(-) transport into the thyroid follicular cells, the first step in thyroid hormone biosynthesis. NIS-mediated thyroidal I(-) transport from the bloodstream to the colloid is a vectorial process made possible by the selective targeting of NIS to the basolateral membrane. NIS also mediates active I(-) transport in other tissues, including salivary glands, gastric mucosa, and lactating mammary gland, in which it translocates I(-) into the milk for thyroid hormone biosynthesis by the nursing newborn. NIS provides the basis for the effective diagnostic and therapeutic management of thyroid cancer and its metastases with radioiodide. NIS research has proceeded at an astounding pace after the 1996 isolation of the rat NIS cDNA, comprising the elucidation of NIS secondary structure and topology, biogenesis and posttranslational modifications, transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation, electrophysiological analysis, isolation of the human NIS cDNA, and determination of the human NIS genomic organization. Clinically related topics include the analysis of congenital I(-) transport defect-causing NIS mutations and the role of NIS in thyroid cancer. NIS has been transduced into various kinds of cancer cells to render them susceptible to destruction with radioiodide. Most dramatically, the discovery of endogenous NIS expression in more than 80% of human breast cancer samples has raised the possibility that radioiodide may be a valuable novel tool in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Biological Transport / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Iodides / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Organ Specificity
  • Signal Transduction
  • Symporters / genetics*
  • Symporters / physiology*
  • Thyroid Diseases
  • Thyroid Neoplasms
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transfection


  • Iodides
  • Symporters
  • sodium-iodide symporter