Infection and inflammation produce systemic responses that include hypozincemia and hypoferremia. The latter involves regulation of the iron transporter ferroportin 1 by hepcidin. The mechanism of reduced plasma zinc is not known. Transcripts of the two zinc transporter gene families (ZnT and Zip) were screened for regulation in mouse liver after turpentine-induced inflammation and LPS administration. Zip14 mRNA was the transporter transcript most up-regulated by inflammation and LPS. IL-6 knockout (IL-6(-/-)) mice did not exhibit either hypozincemia or the induction of Zip14 with turpentine inflammation. However, in IL-6(-/-) mice, LPS produced a milder hypozincemic response but no Zip14 induction. Northern analysis showed Zip14 up-regulation was specific for the liver, with one major transcript. Immunohistochemistry, using an antibody to an extracellular Zip14 epitope, showed both LPS and turpentine increased abundance of Zip14 at the plasma membrane of hepatocytes. IL-6 produced increased expression of Zip14 in primary hepatocytes cultures and localization of the protein to the plasma membrane. Transfection of mZip14 cDNA into human embryonic kidney cells increased zinc uptake as measured by both a fluorescent probe for free Zn(2+) and (65)Zn accumulation, as well as by metallothionein mRNA induction, all indicating that Zip14 functions as a zinc importer. Zip14 was localized in plasma membrane of the transfected cells. These in vivo and in vitro experiments demonstrate that Zip14 expression is up-regulated through IL-6, and that this zinc transporter most likely plays a major role in the mechanism responsible for hypozincemia that accompanies the acute-phase response to inflammation and infection.