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J Nutr Biochem. 2008 Feb;19(2):129-37. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Longitudinal changes in zinc transport kinetics, metallothionein and zinc transporter expression in a blood-brain barrier model in response to a moderately excessive zinc environment.

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Department of Animal and Nutritional Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA.


A blood-brain barrier (BBB) model composed of porcine brain capillary endothelial cells (BCEC) was exposed to a moderately excessive zinc environment (50 micromol/L Zn) in cell culture, and longitudinal measurements were made of zinc transport kinetics, ZnT-1 (SLC30A1) expression and changes in the protein concentration of metallothionein (MT), ZnT-1, ZnT-2 (SLC30A2) and Zip1 (SLC39A1). Zinc release by cells of the BBB model significantly increased after 12-24 h of exposure, but decreased back to control levels after 48-96 h, as indicated by transport across the BBB from both the ablumenal (brain) and the lumenal (blood) directions. Expression of ZnT-1, the zinc export protein, increased by 169% within 12 h, but was no longer different from controls after 24 h. Likewise, ZnT-1 protein content increased transiently after 12 h of exposure, but returned to control levels by 24 h. Capacity for zinc uptake and retention increased from both the lumenal and the ablumenal directions within 12-24 h of exposure and remained elevated. MT and ZnT-2 were elevated within 12 h and remained elevated throughout the study. Zip1 was unchanged by the treatment. The BBB's response to a moderately high zinc environment was dynamic and involved multiple mechanisms. The initial response was to increase the cells' capacity to sequester zinc with additional MT and to increase zinc export with the ZnT-1 protein. But the longer-term strategy involved increasing ZnT-2 transporters, presumably to sequester zinc into intracellular vesicles as a mechanism to protect the brain and to maintain brain zinc homeostasis.

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