The Physiological, Biochemical, and Molecular Roles of Zinc Transporters in Zinc Homeostasis and Metabolism

Physiol Rev. 2015 Jul;95(3):749-84. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00035.2014.


Zinc is involved in a variety of biological processes, as a structural, catalytic, and intracellular and intercellular signaling component. Thus zinc homeostasis is tightly controlled at the whole body, tissue, cellular, and subcellular levels by a number of proteins, with zinc transporters being particularly important. In metazoan, two zinc transporter families, Zn transporters (ZnT) and Zrt-, Irt-related proteins (ZIP) function in zinc mobilization of influx, efflux, and compartmentalization/sequestration across biological membranes. During the last two decades, significant progress has been made in understanding the molecular properties, expression, regulation, and cellular and physiological roles of ZnT and ZIP transporters, which underpin the multifarious functions of zinc. Moreover, growing evidence indicates that malfunctioning zinc homeostasis due to zinc transporter dysfunction results in the onset and progression of a variety of diseases. This review summarizes current progress in our understanding of each ZnT and ZIP transporter from the perspective of zinc physiology and pathogenesis, discussing challenging issues in their structure and zinc transport mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cation Transport Proteins / chemistry
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Zinc