Diversity of the mammalian sodium/proton exchanger SLC9 gene family
Sodium/proton antiporters or exchangers (NHE) are integral membrane proteins present in most, if not all, living organisms. In mammals, these transporters chiefly catalyze the electroneutral exchange of Na+ and H+ down their respective concentration gradients and are crucial for numerous physiological processes, ranging from the fine control of intracellular pH and cell volume to systemic electrolyte, acid-base and fluid volume homeostasis. NHE activity also facilitates the progression of other cellular events such as adhesion, migration, and proliferation. Thus far, eight distinct NHE genes (NHE1/SLC9A1–NHE8/SLC9A8) and several pseudogenes have been identified in the human genome. The functional genes encode proteins of varying primary sequence identity (25–70%), but share a common predicted secondary structure comprising 12 conserved membrane-spanning segments at the amino-terminus and a more divergent, cytoplasmically-oriented, carboxy-terminus. They show considerable heterogeneity in their patterns of tissue/cell expression and membrane localization. Functional studies have revealed further differences in their kinetic properties, sensitivity to pharmacological antagonists, and regulation by diverse hormonal and mechanical stimuli. Altered NHE activity has been linked to the pathogenesis of several diseases, including essential hypertension, congenital secretory diarrhea, diabetes, and tissue damage caused by ischemia/reperfusion. Further characterization of their functional properties should lead to a better understanding of their unique contributions to human health and disease.