Molecular identification of ancient and modern mammalian magnesium transporters

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2010 Mar;298(3):C407-29. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00124.2009. Epub 2009 Nov 25.


A large number of mammalian Mg(2+) transporters have been hypothesized on the basis of physiological data, but few have been investigated at the molecular level. The recent identification of a number of novel proteins that mediate Mg(2+) transport has enhanced our understanding of how Mg(2+) is translocated across mammalian membranes. Some of these transporters have some similarity to those found in prokaryocytes and yeast cells. Human Mrs2, a mitochondrial Mg(2+) channel, shares many of the properties of the bacterial CorA and yeast Alr1 proteins. The SLC41 family of mammalian Mg(2+) transporters has a similarity with some regions of the bacterial MgtE transporters. The mammalian ancient conserved domain protein (ACDP) Mg(2+) transporters are found in prokaryotes, suggesting an ancient origin. However, other newly identified mammalian transporters, including TRPM6/7, MagT, NIPA, MMgT, and HIP14 families, are not represented in prokaryotic genomes, suggesting more recent development. MagT, NIPA, MMgT, and HIP14 transporters were identified by differential gene expression using microarray analysis. These proteins, which are found in many different tissues and subcellular organelles, demonstrate a diversity of structural properties and biophysical functions. The mammalian Mg(2+) transporters have no obvious amino acid similarities, indicating that there are many ways to transport Mg(2+) across membranes. Most of these proteins transport a number of divalent cations across membranes. Only MagT1 and NIPA2 are selective for Mg(2+). Many of the identified mammalian Mg(2+) transporters are associated with a number of congenital disorders encompassing a wide range of tissues, including intestine, kidney, brain, nervous system, and skin. It is anticipated that future research will identify other novel Mg(2+) transporters and reveal other diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cation Transport Proteins / chemistry
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport
  • Kinetics
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Conformation
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Magnesium