The Na+/I- Symporter (NIS): Mechanism and medical impact

Carla Portulano, Monika Paroder-Belenitsky, Nancy Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


The Na+/I- symporter (NIS) is the plasma membrane glycoprotein that mediates active I- transport in the thyroid and other tissues, such as salivary glands, stomach, lactating breast, and small intestine. In the thyroid, NISmediated I- uptake plays a key role as the first step in the biosynthesis of the thyroid hormones, of which iodine is an essential constituent. These hormones are crucial for the development of the central nervous system and the lungs in the fetus and the newborn and for intermediary metabolism at all ages. Since the cloning of NIS in 1996, NIS research has become a major field of inquiry, with considerable impact on many basic and translational areas. In this article, we review the most recent findings on NIS, I- homeostasis, and related topics and place them in historical context. Among many other issues, we discuss the current outlook on iodide deficiency disorders, the present stage of understanding of the structure/function properties of NIS, information gleaned from the characterization of I- transport deficiency-causing NIS mutations, insights derived from the newly reported crystal structures of prokaryotic transporters and 3-dimensional homology modeling, and the novel discovery that NIS transports different substrates with different stoichiometries. A review of NIS regulatory mechanisms is provided, including a newly discovered one involving a K+ channel that is required for NIS function in the thyroid. We also cover current and potential clinical applications of NIS, such as its central role in the treatment of thyroid cancer, its promising use as a reporter gene in imaging and diagnostic procedures, and the latest studies on NIS gene transfer aimed at extending radioiodide treatment to extrathyroidal cancers, including those involving specially engineered NIS molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-149
Number of pages44
JournalEndocrine reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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