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Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism
Volume 2012, Article ID 173712, 13 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/173712
Review Article

Zinc Transporters, Mechanisms of Action and Therapeutic Utility: Implications for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

1School of Health Sciences, University of Ballarat, University Drive, Mount Helen, VIC 3350, Australia
2Collaborative Research Network, University of Ballarat, Mount Helen, VIC 3350, Australia

Received 4 September 2012; Revised 7 November 2012; Accepted 7 November 2012

Academic Editor: Samir Samman

Copyright © 2012 Stephen A. Myers et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Zinc is an essential trace element that plays a vital role in maintaining many biological processes and cellular homeostasis. Dysfunctional zinc signaling is associated with a number of chronic disease states including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. Cellular homeostasis requires mechanisms that tightly control the uptake, storage, and distribution of zinc. This is achieved through the coordinated actions of zinc transporters and metallothioneins. Evidence on the role of these proteins in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is now emerging. Zinc plays a key role in the synthesis, secretion and action of insulin in both physiological and pathophysiological states. Moreover, recent studies highlight zinc’s dynamic role as a “cellular second messenger” in the control of insulin signaling and glucose homeostasis. This suggests that zinc plays an unidentified role as a novel second messenger that augments insulin activity. This previously unexplored concept would raise a whole new area of research into the pathophysiology of insulin resistance and introduce a new class of drug target with utility for diabetes pharmacotherapy.