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Open Access Research article

Functional studies of Drosophila zinc transporters reveal the mechanism for dietary zinc absorption and regulation

Qiuhong Qin, Xiaoxi Wang and Bing Zhou*

Author Affiliations

State Key Laboratory of Biomembrane and Membrane Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

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BMC Biology 2013, 11:101  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-11-101

Published: 24 September 2013

Abstract

Background

Zinc is key to the function of many proteins, but the process of dietary zinc absorption is not well clarified. Current knowledge about dietary zinc absorption is fragmented, and mostly derives from incomplete mammalian studies. To gain a comprehensive picture of this process, we systematically characterized all zinc transporters (that is, the Zip and ZnT family members) for their possible roles in dietary zinc absorption in a genetically amenable model organism, Drosophila melanogaster.

Results

A set of plasma membrane-resident zinc transporters was identified to be responsible for absorbing zinc from the lumen into the enterocyte and the subsequent exit of zinc to the circulation. dZip1 and dZip2, two functionally overlapping zinc importers, are responsible for absorbing zinc from the lumen into the enterocyte. Exit of zinc to the circulation is mediated through another two functionally overlapping zinc exporters, dZnT1, and its homolog CG5130 (dZnT77C). Somewhat surprisingly, it appears that the array of intracellular ZnT proteins, including the Golgi-resident dZnT7, is not directly involved in dietary zinc absorption. By modulating zinc status in different parts of the body, we found that regulation of dietary zinc absorption, in contrast to that of iron, is unresponsive to bodily needs or zinc status outside the gut. The zinc transporters that are involved in dietary zinc absorption, including the importers dZip1 and dZip2, and the exporter dZnT1, are respectively regulated at the RNA and protein levels by zinc in the enterocyte.

Conclusions

Our study using the model organism Drosophila thus starts to reveal a comprehensive sketch of dietary zinc absorption and its regulatory control, a process that is still incompletely understood in mammalian organisms. The knowledge gained will act as a reference for future mammalian studies, and also enable an appreciation of this important process from an evolutionary perspective.

Keywords:
Dietary zinc; Drosophila; Intracellular zinc trafficking; Regulation; Zinc absorption