Zinc in specialized secretory tissues: Roles in the pancreas, prostate, and mammary gland

Shannon L. Kelleher, Nicholas H. McCormick, Vanessa Velasquez, Veronica Lopez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


Zinc (Zn) is an essential micronutrient required for over 300 different cellular processes, including DNA and protein synthesis, enzyme activity, and intracellular signaling. Cellular Zn homeostasis necessitates the compartmentalization of Zn into intracellular organelles, which is tightly regulated through the integration of Zn transporting mechanisms. The pancreas, prostate, and mammary gland are secretory tissues that have unusual Zn requirements and thus must tightly regulate Zn metabolism through integrating Zn import, sequestration, and export mechanisms. Recent findings indicate that these tissues utilize Zn for basic cellular processes but also require Zn for unique cellular needs. In addition, abundant Zn is transported into the secretory pathway and a large amount is subsequently secreted in a tightly regulated manner for unique biological processes. Expression of numerous members of the SLC30A (ZnT) and SLC39A (Zip) gene families has been documented in these tissues, yet there is limited understanding of their precise functional role in Zn metabolism or their regulation. Impairments in Zn secretion from the pancreas, prostate, and mammary gland are associated with disorders such as diabetes, infertility, and cancer, respectively. In this review, we will provide a brief summary of the specific role of Zn in each tissue and describe our current knowledge regarding how Zn metabolism is regulated. Finally, in each instance, we will reflect upon how this information shapes our current understanding of the role of Zn in these secretory tissues with respect to human health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-111
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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