The Impact of ZIP8 Disease-Associated Variants G38R, C113S, G204C, and S335T on Selenium and Cadmium Accumulations: The First Characterization

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 22;22(21):11399. doi: 10.3390/ijms222111399.


The metal cation symporter ZIP8 (SLC39A8) is a transmembrane protein that imports the essential micronutrients iron, manganese, and zinc, as well as heavy toxic metal cadmium (Cd). It has been recently suggested that selenium (Se), another essential micronutrient that has long been known for its role in human health and cancer risk, may also be transported by the ZIP8 protein. Several mutations in the ZIP8 gene are associated with the aberrant ion homeostasis of cells and can lead to human diseases. However, the intricate relationships between ZIP8 mutations, cellular Se homeostasis, and human diseases (including cancers and illnesses associated with Cd exposure) have not been explored. To further verify if ZIP8 is involved in cellular Se transportation, we first knockout (KO) the endogenous expression of ZIP8 in the HeLa cells using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. The elimination of ZIP8 expression was examined by PCR, DNA sequencing, immunoblot, and immunofluorescence analyses. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry indicated that reduced uptake of Se, along with other micronutrients and Cd, was observed in the ZIP8-KO cells. In contrast, when ZIP8 was overexpressed, increased Se uptake could be detected in the ZIP8-overexpressing cells. Additionally, we found that ZIP8 with disease-associated single-point mutations G38R, G204C, and S335T, but not C113S, showed reduced Se transport ability. We then evaluated the potential of Se on Cd cytotoxicity prevention and therapy of cancers. Results indicated that Se could suppress Cd-induced cytotoxicity via decreasing the intracellular Cd transported by ZIP8, and Se exhibited excellent anticancer activity against not all but only selected cancer cell lines, under restricted experimental conditions. Moreover, clinical-based bioinformatic analyses revealed that up-regulated ZIP8 gene expression was common across multiple cancer types, and selenoproteins that were significantly co-expressed with ZIP8 in these cancers had been identified. Taken together, this study concludes that ZIP8 is an important protein in modulating cellular Se levels and provides insights into the roles of ZIP8 and Se in disease prevention and therapy.

Keywords: ICP-MS; ZIP8; cadmium cytotoxicity; cancer therapy; cisplatin; nonsynonymous mutation; selenium homeostasis; selenoproteins.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Cadmium / metabolism*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Disease / genetics
  • HeLa Cells
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Manganese / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Selenium / metabolism*
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • SLC39A8 protein, human
  • Cadmium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Zinc