ZnT1 is a neuronal Zn2+/Ca2+ exchanger

Cell Calcium. 2022 Jan:101:102505. doi: 10.1016/j.ceca.2021.102505. Epub 2021 Nov 23.


Zinc transporter 1 (ZnT1; SLC30A1) is present in the neuronal plasma membrane, critically modulating NMDA receptor function and Zn2+ neurotoxicity. The mechanism mediating Zn2+ transport by ZnT1, however, has remained elusive. Here, we investigated ZnT1-dependent Zn2+ transport by measuring intracellular changes of this ion using the fluorescent indicator FluoZin-3. In primary mouse cortical neurons, which express ZnT1, transient addition of extracellular Zn2+ triggered a rise in cytosolic Zn2+, followed by its removal. Knockdown of ZnT1 by adeno associated viral (AAV)-short hairpin RNA (shZnT1) markedly increased rates of Zn2+ rise, and decreased rates of its removal, suggesting that ZnT1 is a primary route for Zn2+ efflux in neurons. Although Zn2+ transport by other members of the SLC30A family is dependent on pH gradients across cellular membranes, altered H+ gradients were not coupled to ZnT1-dependent transport. Removal of cytoplasmic Zn2+, against a large inward gradient during the initial loading phase, suggests that Zn2+ efflux requires a large driving force. We therefore asked if Ca2+ gradients across the membrane can facilitate Zn2+ efflux. Elimination of extracellular Ca2+ abolished Zn2+ efflux, while increased extracellular Ca2+ levels enhanced Zn2+ efflux. Intracellular Ca2+ rises, measured in GCaMP6 expressing neurons, closely paralleled cytoplasmic Zn2+ removal. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that ZnT1 functions as a Zn2+/Ca2+ exchanger, thereby regulating the transport of two ions of fundamental importance in neuronal signaling.

Keywords: Calcium; DIV- days in vitro; Neurotoxicity; RFP- red fluorescent protein; WB- western blot; Zinc transport; Zn(2+)/Ca(2+) exchange; ZnT1.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cation Transport Proteins* / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins* / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Zinc