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Annu Rev Nutr. 2007;27:165-77.

Trace element transport in the mammary gland.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California at Davis, CA, USA.


The mammary gland has a remarkable capacity to adapt to maternal deficiency or excess of iron, copper, and zinc and to homeostatically control milk concentrations of these essential nutrients. Similarly, it can regulate changes in concentrations of iron, copper, and zinc change during lactation. For iron, this regulation is achieved by transferrin receptor, DMT1, and ferroportin, whereas mammary gland copper metabolism is regulated by Ctr1, ATP7A, and ATP7B. Zinc homeostasis is complex, involving both zinc importers (Zip3) and zinc exporters (ZnT-1, ZnT-2, and ZnT-4). Both transcriptional and post-translational regulation can affect protein abundance and cellular localization of these transporters, finely orchestrating uptake, intracellular trafficking, and secretion of iron, copper, and zinc. The control of mammary gland uptake and milk secretion of iron, copper, and zinc protects both the mammary gland and the breast-fed infant against deficiency and excess of these nutrients.

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