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An international group of laboratories, led by CeMM, publishes in Cell the scientific arguments for more systematic research on solute carriers proteins, the major class of drug transporters


Recent scientific insights and technical breakthroughs strongly argue for a global, efficient approach to map the gene products that manage the interface between biological systems and their environment.

The proteins that transport nutrients and drugs across cellular membranes into cells and organisms have paradoxically not been studied in an orderly, efficient fashion, despite their clear importance. Recent work at CeMM on regulation of the mTOR pathway and mechanism of cancer drug resistance has identified two members of the large group of solute carrier proteins (SLCs) as critical for these processes (Rebsamen et al, Nature 2015; Winter et al, Nature Chem Biol 2014). These discoveries generated the idea of a small workshop of scientists from academia and industry to discuss the merits of a research effort aimed at characterizing systematically the entire group of SLCs, composed of some 400 members. Together with Aled Edwards of the Structural Genomics Consortium in Toronto and Oxford and Matthias Hediger, of the University of Bern and scientists from several other laboratories in the Canada and the USA, Giulio Superti-Furga and his team now report to the large scientific readership of the prestigious journal Cell the logic that justifies the call to the scientific community for more attention to this class of proteins. First authors Adrián César-Razquin and Berend Snijder have found an unusually high degree of “asymmetric attention” so far devoted to SLCs by the scientific community. Some members, such as the target of serotonin uptake inhibitors and glucose transporters have been studied intensively and successfully, while the majority has been practically overlooked. Yet SLCs are of extraordinarily medical importance: many SLCs are linked to disease, it has been shown that SLCs can be excellent drug targets, and many drugs require SLCs to access cells and tissues. Because nutrient transport is linked by the complex and intertwined networks of metabolism, the paper argues that the function of SLCs should be studied taking these interactions into account. Ultimately, understanding the function and specificity of all membrane transporters promises substantial benefits for medicine and pharmacology.

Adrián César-Razquin, Berend Snijder, Tristan Frappier-Brinton, Ruth Isserlin, Gergely Gyimesi, Xiaoyun Bai, Reinhart A.F. Reithmeier, David Hepworth, Matthias A. Hediger, Aled M. Edwards and Giulio Superti-Furga, A Call for Systematic Research on Solute Carriers. Cell 162, July 30 2015.