The physiological role of drug transporters

Protein Cell. 2015 May;6(5):334-50. doi: 10.1007/s13238-015-0148-2. Epub 2015 Mar 24.


Transporters comprise the largest family of membrane proteins in human organism, including members of solute carrier transporter and ATP-binding cassette transporter families. They play pivotal roles in the absorption, distribution and excretion of xenobiotic and endogenous molecules. Transporters are widely expressed in various human tissues and are routinely evaluated during the process of drug development and approval. Over the past decade, increasing evidence shows that drug transporters are important in both normal physiology and disease. Currently, transporters are utilized as therapeutic targets to treat numerous diseases such as diabetes, major depression, hypertension and constipation. Despite the steady growth of the field of transporter biology, more than half of the members in transporter superfamily have little information available about their endogenous substrate(s) or physiological functions. This review outlines current research methods in transporter studies, and summarizes the drug-transporter interactions including drug-drug and drug-endogenous substrate interactions. In the end, we also discuss the therapeutic perspective of transporters based on their physiological and pathophysiological roles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Constipation* / drug therapy
  • Constipation* / metabolism
  • Depression* / drug therapy
  • Depression* / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / drug therapy
  • Hypertension* / metabolism
  • Pharmacokinetics*


  • Carrier Proteins