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The purpose of these experiments was to determine whether dietary zinc depletion affected protein expression in the hippocampus. Eleven weanling Sprague–Dawley male rats (21 d) were fed the AIN-93G diet containing 1.5 ppm zinc and supplemented with 30 ppm of zinc in the drinking water. After 1 wk, the rats were randomly divided into three groups: control (n=3), pair fed (n=3), and zinc restricted (n=5). All groups consumed the same diet. The zinc-restricted group consumed water containing no zinc. The rats were sacrificed 3 wk later. Chelatable zinc levels in the hippocampus, as measured by N-(6-methoxy-8-quinolyl)-para-toluenesulfonamide (TSQ) staining, were significantly reduced in the zinc-restricted group. Analysis of hippocampal protein expression by two-dimensional electrophoresis (2DE) revealed increased expression of the P2X6 purinergic receptor in the zinc-restricted rats, as determined by MALDI mass spectrometry (MS) and database analysis. The data provided evidence for the dual effects of dietary zinc deficiency on the hippocampus, reducing ionic zinc levels and stimulating protein expression. The role the P2X6 receptor plays in the physiological response of the hippocampus to zinc depletion remains to be determined.