Boron is a vital micronutrient in plants and may be essential for animal growth and development. Whereas the role of boron in the life cycle of plants is well documented, nothing is known about boron homeostasis and function in animal cells. NaBC1, the mammalian homolog of AtBor1, is a borate transporter. In the absence of borate, NaBC1 conducts Na(+) and OH(-) (H(+)), while in the presence of borate, NaBC1 functions as an electrogenic, voltage-regulated, Na(+)-coupled B(OH)(4)(-) transporter. At low concentrations, borate activated the MAPK pathway to stimulate cell growth and proliferation, and at high concentrations, it was toxic. Accordingly, overexpression of NaBC1 shifted both effects of borate to the left, whereas knockdown of NaBC1 halted cell growth and proliferation. These findings may reveal a previously unrecognized role for NaBC1 in borate homeostasis and open the way to better understanding of the many presumed physiological roles of borate in animals.