Na+/Ca2+-K+ Exchangers (NCKX): Functional Properties and Physiological Roles

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The most numerous Ca2+ extrusion protein family, in terms of distinct genes, is the SLC24 gene family of Na+/Ca2+-K+ exchangers (NCKX). Five distinct gene products have been identified, mostly from specific animal excitable tissues such as neurons and smooth muscle, but also in places like skin pigment epithelium, signifying that NCKX proteins may play very specific roles, related to Ca2+ homeostasis, in these tissues. However, progress in elucidating the specific physiological roles of NCKX proteins has been slow in coming, largely because of challenges relating to isolating the activity of these proteins in their native tissues. Herein, we provide an overview of NCKX protein functional characteristics, highlighting properties that are unique and useful as distinguishing features over other Ca2+ handling mechanisms. We also present the first comprehensive review of the literature concerning physiological roles of NCKX proteins.

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