Recent progress in structure-function analyses of Nramp proton-dependent metal-ion transporters

Biochem Cell Biol. 2006 Dec;84(6):960-78. doi: 10.1139/o06-193.


The natural resistance-associated macrophage protein (Nramp) homologs form a family of proton-coupled transporters that facilitate the cellular absorption of divalent metal ions (Me2+, including Mn2+, Fe2+, Co2+, and Cd2+). The Nramp, or solute carrier 11 (SLC11), family is conserved in eukaryotes and bacteria. Humans and rodents express 2 parologous genes that are associated with iron disorders and immune diseases. The NRAMP1 (SLC11A1) protein is specific to professional phagocytes and extrudes Me2+ from the phagosome to defend against ingested microbes; polymorphisms in the NRAMP1 gene are associated with various immune diseases. Several isoforms of NRAMP2 (SLC11A2, DMT1, DCT1) are expressed ubiquitously in recycling endosomes or specifically at the apical membrane of epithelial cells in intestine and kidneys, and can contribute to iron overload, whereas mutations impairing NRAMP2 function cause a form of congenital microcytic hypochromic anemia. Structure-function studies, using various experimental models, and mutagenesis approaches have begun to reveal the overall transmembrane organization of Nramp, some of the transmembrane segments (TMS) that are functionally important, and an unusual mechanism coupling Me2+ and proton H+ transport. The approaches used include functional complementation of yeast knockout strains, electrophysiology analyses in Xenopus oocytes, and transport assays that use mammalian and bacterial cells and direct and indirect measurements of SLC11 transporter properties. These complementary studies enabled the identification of TMS1 and 6 as crucial structural segments for Me2+ and H+ symport, and will help develop a deeper understanding of the Nramp transport mechanism and its contribution to Me2+ homeostasis in human health and diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cation Transport Proteins / chemistry
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cations, Divalent / metabolism
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport
  • Metals / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny
  • Protons*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Cations, Divalent
  • Metals
  • Protons
  • solute carrier family 11- (proton-coupled divalent metal ion transporters), member 2