SLC5A8 is a candidate tumour suppressor gene that is silenced in colon cancer, gastric cancer and possibly other cancers in humans. This gene codes for a transporter belonging to the Na(+)/glucose co-transporter gene family (SLC5). The cancer-associated silencing of the gene involves hypermethylation of CpG islands present in exon 1 of the gene. SLC5A8 is expressed in colon, ileum, kidney and thyroid gland. The protein coded by the gene mediates the Na(+)-coupled and electrogenic transport of a variety of monocarboxylates, including short-chain fatty acids, lactate and nicotinate. It may also transport iodide. The normal physiological function of this transporter in the intestinal tract and kidney is likely to facilitate the active absorption of short-chain fatty acids, lactate and nicotinate. One of the short-chain fatty acids that serves as a substrate for SLC5A8 is butyrate. This fatty acid is an inhibitor of histone deacetylases and is known to induce apoptosis in a variety of tumours including colonic tumour. Since butyrate is produced in the colonic lumen at high concentrations by bacterial fermentation of dietary fibre, we speculate that the ability of SLC5A8 to mediate the entry of this short-chain fatty acid into colonic epithelial cells underlies the potential tumour suppressor function of this transporter.