During lactation, a substantial amount of Zn2+ is transferred by the mammary gland from the maternal circulation into milk; thus secretory mammary epithelial cells must tightly regulate Zn2+ transport to ensure optimal Zn2+ transfer to the suckling neonate. To date, six Zn2+ import proteins (Zip1-6) have been identified; however, Zip3 expression is restricted to tissues with unique requirements for Zn 2+, such as the mammary gland, which suggests that it may play a specialized role in this tissue. In the present study, we have used a unique mammary epithelial cell model (HC11) to characterize the role of Zip3 in mammary epithelial cell Zn2+ transport. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that Zip3 is localized to the cell surface in mammary epithelial cells and transiently relocalized to an intracellular compartment in cells with a secretory phenotype. Total 65Zn transport was higher in secreting cells, while gene silencing of Zip3 decreased 65Zn uptake into mammary epithelial cells, particularly in those with a secretory phenotype. Finally, reduced expression of Zip3 ultimately resulted in cell death, indicating that mammary epithelial cells have a unique requirement for Zip3-mediated Zn2+ import, which may reflect the unique requirement for Zn2+ of this highly specialized cell type and thus provides a physiological explanation for the restricted tissue distribution of this Zn 2+ importer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology