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Intestinal Na/H Exchangers

Stimulation of Intestinal Sodium Absorption by Zinc, an Essential Micronutrient

Principal Investigator

Research Team

Mirajul H. Kazi, Ph.D.

Study Focus

Secretory diarrhea is a leading cause of childhood morbidity and mortality in developing countries. While diarrhea can be treated with oral rehydration solution (ORS), inclusion of zinc with oral ORS has been shown to reduce the duration of diarrhea. However, how zinc improves diarrhea is not known.

It has been shown that zinc acts as an intestinal epithelial cell basolateral potassium channel blocker of cyclic AMP-mediated chloride secretion. We discovered that zinc also stimulates intestinal sodium and water absorption via the epithelial Na/H exchanger, NHE3. Zinc reverses the effect of cyclic AMP inhibition of NHE3 activity. The effect of zinc on NHE3 cannot be duplicated with other divalent metal ions. It has been well established that Na/H exchanger regulatory proteins are involved in NHE3 regulation.

Whether these regulatory proteins are involved in zinc stimulation of NHE3 is a focus of our study. Our goal is to reveal mechanisms to explain how zinc improves diarrhea and to understand the role of zinc in salt and water homeostasis in the gut. Our study will provide a scientific basis to justify the inclusion of zinc in ORS for the treatment of secretory diarrhea.


  1. Hoque KM, Sarker R, Guggino SE, Tse CM. (2009) A new insight into pathophysiological mechanisms of zinc in diarrhea Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1165:279-84. PMID: 19538317.