Nutrient transport in the mammary gland: calcium, trace minerals and water soluble vitamins

J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2014 Mar;19(1):73-90. doi: 10.1007/s10911-014-9317-9. Epub 2014 Feb 25.


Milk nutrients are secreted by epithelial cells in the alveoli of the mammary gland by several complex and highly coordinated systems. Many of these nutrients are transported from the blood to the milk via transcellular pathways that involve the concerted activity of transport proteins on the apical and basolateral membranes of mammary epithelial cells. In this review, we focus on transport mechanisms that contribute to the secretion of calcium, trace minerals and water soluble vitamins into milk with particular focus on the role of transporters of the SLC series as well as calcium transport proteins (ion channels and pumps). Numerous members of the SLC family are involved in the regulation of essential nutrients in the milk, such as the divalent metal transporter-1 (SLC11A2), ferroportin-1 (SLC40A1) and the copper transporter CTR1 (SLC31A1). A deeper understanding of the physiology and pathophysiology of these transporters will be of great value for drug discovery and treatment of breast diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism*
  • Mammary Glands, Human / metabolism*
  • Minerals / metabolism*
  • Trace Elements / metabolism*
  • Vitamins / metabolism*


  • Minerals
  • Trace Elements
  • Vitamins
  • Calcium