A perspective view of sodium iodide symporter research and its clinical implications

Eur J Endocrinol. 2006 Oct;155(4):495-512. doi: 10.1530/eje.1.02257.


The sodium iodide symporter (NIS) is an intrinsic plasma membrane protein that mediates active iodide transport into the thyroid gland and into several extrathyroidal tissues, in particular the lactating mammary gland. Cloning and molecular characterization of the NIS have allowed the investigation of its key role in thyroid physiology as well as its potential pathophysiological and therapeutic implications in benign and malignant thyroid diseases. Similarly, elucidating the mechanisms underlying the regulation of NIS in lactating mammary gland and breast cancer, in which more than 80% of cases express endogenous NIS, may lead to findings that have novel implications for pathophysiology and therapy. Two approaches may, in the future, pave the way to extend the use of radioiodide treatment to nonthyroidal cancer. One is based on the reinduction of endogenous NIS expression in thyroid and breast cancer by targeting the main mechanisms involving tumoral transformation and dedifferentiation. The other is based on the application of NIS as a novel cytoreductive gene therapy strategy. NIS offers the unique advantage that it can be used both as a reporter and as a therapeutic gene, so that it is possible to image, monitor, and treat the tumor with radioiodide, just as in differentiated thyroid cancer. This review summarizes the main recent findings in NIS research that have a direct impact on diagnosis and therapeutic management.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / therapy
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction
  • Symporters / genetics
  • Symporters / metabolism
  • Symporters / physiology*
  • Thyroid Diseases / etiology*
  • Thyroid Diseases / therapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / etiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Symporters
  • sodium-iodide symporter