Newborn infants are exposed to widely varying intakes of trace elements, but little is known about their ability to homeostatically adjust to these intakes. Recent discoveries of several metal ion transporters in the small intestine are likely to enhance our understanding of molecular mechanisms regulating trace element absorption. Iron absorption is regulated by divalent metal ion transporter 1 (DMT1) and ferroportin 1 (FPN1). Studies on human infants have shown that young infants cannot regulate iron absorption, whereas older infants can. Our studies on infant rat pups show that there is no regulation of DMT1 and FPN1 at young age, but that this develops at older age. These findings may explain adverse effects of iron supplementation on growth in young human infants. Zinc absorption in the small intestine is regulated by the transporters ZnT1, ZnT2, ZnT4 and Zip-4 and zinc status affects the expression of these transporters in an attempt to achieve zinc homeostasis. Copper absorption is regulated by the transporters Ctr1, Atp7A and Atp7B, and exposure to copper at early age affects the expression and cellular localization of these proteins, affecting copper uptake and transport. To date, most studies on homeostatic regulation of trace mineral absorption have been done in cell systems and animal models; further studies on human infants are needed. The consequences of trace element interactions during infancy also need to be investigated in more detail.
- Homeostatic regulation
- Metal ion transporters
- Newborn infants
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health