Metallothionein and Zinc Transporter Expression in Circulating Human Blood Cells as Biomarkers of Zinc Status: a Systematic Review1–3

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Abstract

Zinc is an essential nutrient for humans; however, a sensitive biomarker to assess zinc status has not been identified. The objective of this systematic review was to compile and assess studies that determined zinc transporter and/or metallothionein expression in various blood cell types and to determine their reliability and sensitivity to changes in dietary zinc. Sixteen studies were identified that determined the expression of zrt-, irt-like protein (ZIP) 1 [solute carrier family (SLC) 39A1], ZIP3 (SLC39A3), ZIP5 (SLC39A5), ZIP6 (SLC39A6), ZIP7 (SLC39A7), ZIP8 (SLC39A8), ZIP10 (SLC39A10), ZIP14 (SLC39A14), zinc transporter (ZnT)1 (SLC30A1), ZnT2 (SLC30A2), ZnT4 (SLC30A4), ZnT5 (SLC30A5), ZnT6 (SLC30A6), ZnT7 (SLC30A7), ZnT9 (SLC30A9), and/or metallothionein in various blood cells isolated from healthy adult men and women in response to zinc supplementation or depletion. Cell types included leukocytes, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, T lymphocytes, monocytes, and erythrocytes. ZIP1, ZnT1, and metallothionein were the most commonly measured proteins. Changes in ZIP1 and ZnT1 in response to zinc supplementation or depletion were not consistent across studies. Leukocyte metallothionein decreased with zinc depletion (-39% change from baseline, <5 mg Zn/d, n = 2 studies) and increased with zinc supplementation in a dose-dependent manner (35%, 15–22 mg Zn/d, n = 7 studies; 267%, 50 mg Zn/d, n = 2 studies) and at the earliest time points measured; however, no change or delayed response was observed in metallothionein in erythrocytes. A greater percentage of studies demonstrated that metallothionein in leukocyte subtypes was a more reliable (100%, n = 12; 69%, n = 16) and responsive (92%, n = 12; 82%, n = 11) indicator of zinc exposure than was plasma zinc, respectively. In conclusion, current evidence indicates that metallothionein in leukocyte subtypes may be a component in determining zinc status.

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