Expression of ZnT and ZIP zinc transporters in the human RPE and their regulation by neurotrophic factors

Kar Wah Leung, Mugen Liu, Ming Xu, Magdalene J. Seiler, Colin J. Barnstable, Joyce Tombran-Tink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Zinc is an essential cofactor for normal cell function. Altered expression and function of zinc transporters may contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders including macular degeneration. The expression and regulation of zinc transporters in the RPE and the toxicity of zinc to these cells were examined. METHODS. Zinc transporters were identified in a human RPE cell line, ARPE19, using a 28K human array, and their expression was confirmed by PCR, immunocytochemistry, and Western blot analysis in primary human RPE cultures and ARPE19. Zinc toxicity to ARPE19 was determined using monotetrazolium, propidium iodide, and TUNEL assays, and Zn 2+ uptake was visualized with Zinquin ethyl ester. The effect of various growth factors on zinc transporter expression also was examined. RESULTS. Transcripts for 20 of 23 zinc transporters are expressed in fetal human RPE, 16 of 23 in adult human RPE, and 21 of 23 in ARPE19. Zn transporter proteins were also detected in ARPE19. ZnT5 expression was not observed, whereas ZnT6, ZIP1, and ZIP13 were the most abundantly expressed in all RPE samples. The addition of low concentrations of Zn 2+ to cultures resulted in a dose-dependent increase in intracellular Zn 2+ content in ARPE19, and >30 nM Zn 2+ induced necrosis with an LC 50 of 117.4 nM. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, ciliary neurotrophic factor, glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), and pigment epithelial-derived neurotrophic factor (PEDF) increased ZIP2 expression, GDNF and PEDF increased ZnT2 expression, and PEDF increased ZnT3 and ZnT8 expression. These neurotrophic factors also promoted Zn 2+ uptake in the RPE. CONCLUSIONS. The array of zinc transporters expressed by the RPE may play a key role in zinc homeostasis in the retina and in ocular health and diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1221-1231
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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