A comprehensive review of the role of zinc in normal prostate function and metabolism; and its implications in prostate cancer

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2016 Dec 1;611:100-112. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2016.04.014. Epub 2016 Apr 27.


The human prostate gland contains extremely high zinc levels; which is due to the specialized zinc-accumulating acinar epithelial of the peripheral zone. These cells evolved for their unique capability to produce and secrete extremely levels of citrate, which is achieved by the high cellular zinc level effects on the cell metabolism. This review highlights the specific functional and metabolic alterations that result from the accumulation of the high zinc levels, especially its effects on mitochondrial citrate metabolism and terminal oxidation. The implications of zinc in the development and progression of prostate cancer are described, which is the most consistent hallmark characteristic of prostate cancer. The requirement for decreased zinc resulting from down regulation of ZIP1 to prevent zinc cytotoxicity in the malignant cells is described as an essential early event in prostate oncogenesis. This provides the basis for the concept that an agent (such as the zinc ionophore, clioquinol) that facilitates zinc uptake and accumulation in ZIP1-deficient prostate tumors cells will markedly inhibit tumor growth. In the current absence of an efficacious chemotherapy for advanced prostate cancer, and for prevention of early development of malignancy; a zinc treatment regimen is a plausible approach that should be pursued.

Keywords: Citrate metabolism; Prostate; Prostate cancer; ZIP1-deficient prostate malignancy; Zinc effects and cytotoxicity; Zinc treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aconitate Hydratase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Citrates / chemistry
  • Disease Progression
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • Prostate / physiology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / metabolism
  • Zinc / physiology*


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Citrates
  • Ligands
  • SLC39A1 protein, human
  • Testosterone
  • Prolactin
  • Aconitate Hydratase
  • Zinc