Zinc transporters in Alzheimer's disease

Mol Brain. 2019 Dec 9;12(1):106. doi: 10.1186/s13041-019-0528-2.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most devastating neurodegenerative disorder. Due to the increase in population and longevity, incidence will triple by the middle of the twenty-first century. So far, no treatment has prevented or reversed the disease. More than 20 years of multidisciplinary studies have shown that brain zinc dyshomeostasis may play a critical role in AD progression, which provides encouraging clues for metal-targeted therapies in the treatment of AD. Unfortunately, the pilot clinical application of zinc chelator and/or ionophore strategy, such as the use of quinoline-based compounds, namely clioquinol and PBT2, has not yet been successful. The emerging findings revealed a list of key zinc transporters whose mRNA or protein levels were abnormally altered at different stages of AD brains. Furthermore, specifically modulating the expression of some of the zinc transporters in the central nervous system through genetic methods slowed down or prevented AD progression in animal models, resulting in significantly improved cognitive performance, movement, and prolonged lifespan. Although the underlying molecular mechanisms are not yet fully understood, it shed new light on the treatment or prevention of the disease. This review considers recent advances regarding AD, zinc and zinc transporters, recapitulating their relationships in extending our current understanding of the disease amelioration effects of zinc transport proteins as potential therapeutic targets to cure AD, and it may also provide new insights to identify novel therapeutic strategies for ageing and other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington's and Parkinson's disease.

Keywords: Ageing; Alzheimer’s disease; Brain; Emerging therapeutic target; Genetic modulation; Zinc transporter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • zinc-binding protein
  • Zinc