Discovery of ZIP transporters that participate in cadmium damage to testis and kidney

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2009 Aug 1;238(3):250-7. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2009.02.017. Epub 2009 Mar 2.


It has been known for decades that cadmium (Cd) must enter the cell to cause damage, but there was no mechanism to explain genetic differences in response to Cd toxicity until 2005. Starting with the mouse Cdm locus associated with differences in Cd-induced testicular necrosis between inbred strains, a 24.6-centiMorgan region on chromosome 3 was reduced ultimately to 880 kb; in this segment is the Slc39a8 gene encoding the ZIP8 Zn(2+)/HCO(3)(-) symporter. In endothelial cells of the testis vasculature, Cd-sensitive mice exhibit high ZIP8 expression, Cd-resistant mice exhibit very low expression. A 168.7-kb bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) from a 129S6 (Cd-sensitive) BAC library containing the Slc39a8 gene was inserted into the Cd-resistant C57BL/6J genome: Cd treatment produced testicular necrosis in BAC-transgenic BTZIP8-3 mice but not in non-transgenic littermates, thereby proving that the Slc39a8 gene is indeed the Cdm locus. Cd-induced renal failure also occurred in these BTZIP8-3 mice. Immunohistochemistry showed highly expressed ZIP8 protein in the renal proximal tubular epithelial apical surface, suggesting that ZIP8 participates in Cd-induced renal failure. Slc39a14, most closely evolutionarily related to Slc39a8, encodes differentially-spliced products ZIP14A and ZIP14B that display properties similar to ZIP8. ZIP8 in alveolar cells brings environmental Cd into the organism and ZIP14 in intestinal enterocytes carries Cd into the organism and into the hepatocyte. We believe these two transporters function endogenously as Zn(2+)/HCO(3)(-) symporters important in combating inflammation and carrying out other physiological functions; Cd is able to displace the endogenous cation, enter the cell, and produce tissue damage and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / metabolism
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enterocytes / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Necrosis
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Renal Insufficiency / chemically induced*
  • Renal Insufficiency / metabolism
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testis / pathology


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • SLC39A14 protein, mouse
  • Slc39a8 protein, mouse
  • Cadmium