Widespread expression of zinc transporter ZnT (SLC30) family members in mouse endocrine cells.
Zinc is abundant in most endocrine cell types, and plays a pivotal role in the synthesis and secretion of many hormones. Recent studies have demonstrated the expression of numerous zinc transporter (ZnT) family members in the pancreas, thyroid, and adrenal glands, suggesting a role for ZnTs in regulating cellular zinc homeostasis in endocrine cells. However, the cellular distribution of ZnTs in the endocrine organs has not been well established. In the present study, the mRNA expression level, cellular distribution of ZnTs as well as liable zinc ions were examined in the mouse pituitary, adrenal glands, thyroid, and pancreas. In general, ZnT1-10 mRNA was expressed to various degrees in the detected endocrine organs, with no detectable ZnT10 mRNA in the pancreas. In the anterior pituitary, both the acidophilic and basophilic cells were immunopositive to ZnT1-5, 7, 8, except for ZnT10. In the adrenal cortex, the immunoreactivity of all the tested ZnTs, including ZnT1-5, 7, 8, 10, was observed in the zona fasciculata, and some ZnTs were detected in the zona glomerulosa, zona reticularis, and the adrenal medulla. Both the follicle epithelial cells and parafollicular cells in the thyroid gland were immunostained with ZnT1-5, 7, 8, but not ZnT10. In the endocrine pancreas, the immunoreactivity of tested ZnTs was observed to various degrees except for ZnT10 in the cytoplasm of islet cells. Furthermore, autometallographic staining showed that liable zinc was observed in the endocrine cells, such as the adrenal cortical cells, thyroid follicle epithelial cells, and the pancreatic islet cells. All together, the wide distribution of liable zinc and the phenomenon that numerous ZnT family members are partially overlapped in a subset of endocrine cells suggest an important role for the ZnT family in controlling cellular zinc levels and subsequently regulating the synthesis and secretion of hormones in the endocrine system.