Background: Zinc (Zn) is an essential trace element and it is abundant in connective tissues, however biological roles of Zn and its transporters in those tissues and cells remain unknown.
Methodology/principal findings: Here we report that mice deficient in Zn transporter Slc39a13/Zip13 show changes in bone, teeth and connective tissue reminiscent of the clinical spectrum of human Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). The Slc39a13 knockout (Slc39a13-KO) mice show defects in the maturation of osteoblasts, chondrocytes, odontoblasts, and fibroblasts. In the corresponding tissues and cells, impairment in bone morphogenic protein (BMP) and TGF-beta signaling were observed. Homozygosity for a SLC39A13 loss of function mutation was detected in sibs affected by a unique variant of EDS that recapitulates the phenotype observed in Slc39a13-KO mice.
Conclusions/significance: Hence, our results reveal a crucial role of SLC39A13/ZIP13 in connective tissue development at least in part due to its involvement in the BMP/TGF-beta signaling pathways. The Slc39a13-KO mouse represents a novel animal model linking zinc metabolism, BMP/TGF-beta signaling and connective tissue dysfunction.