The SLC22 Transporter Family: A Paradigm for the Impact of Drug Transporters on Metabolic Pathways, Signaling, and Disease

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2018 Jan 6;58:663-687. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010617-052713.


The SLC22 transporter family consists of more than two dozen members, which are expressed in the kidney, the liver, and other tissues. Evolutionary analysis indicates that SLC22 transporters fall into at least six subfamilies: OAT (organic anion transporter), OAT-like, OAT-related, OCT (organic cation transporter), OCTN (organic cation/carnitine transporter), and OCT/OCTN-related. Some-including OAT1 [SLC22A6 or NKT (novel kidney transporter)] and OAT3 (SLC22A8), as well as OCT1 (SLC22A1) and OCT2 (SLC22A2)-are widely studied drug transporters. Nevertheless, analyses of knockout mice and other data indicate that SLC22 transporters regulate key metabolic pathways and levels of signaling molecules (e.g., gut microbiome products, bile acids, tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates, dietary flavonoids and other nutrients, prostaglandins, vitamins, short-chain fatty acids, urate, and ergothioneine), as well as uremic toxins associated with chronic kidney disease. Certain SLC22 transporters-such as URAT1 (SLC22A12) and OCTN2 (SLC22A5)-are mutated in inherited metabolic diseases. A new systems biology view of transporters is emerging. As proposed in the remote sensing and signaling hypothesis, SLC22 transporters, together with other SLC and ABC transporters, have key roles in interorgan and interorganism small-molecule communication and, together with the neuroendocrine, growth factor-cytokine, and other homeostatic systems, regulate local and whole-body homeostasis.

Keywords: OAT1; OAT3; OCT1; OCT2; drug metabolizing enzyme; drug transporter; homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / drug effects*
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / drug therapy
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations