The organic solute transporter (OST) is one of the members of the solute carrier family and arguably one of the most unique. This transporter is composed of two gene products encoded by SLC51A and SLC51B that heterodimerize to form the functional OSTα-OSTβ complex. SLC51A encodes OSTα, a predicted 340-amino acid, 7-transmembrane (TM) domain protein, whereas SLC51B encodes OSTβ, a putative 128-amino acid, single-TM domain polypeptide. The beta subunit is required not only for heterodimerization and trafficking but also for function. This transporter is expressed in a variety of tissues including the small intestine, colon, liver, biliary tract, kidney, and adrenal gland. Neither OSTα nor OSTβ alone has activity, but the two together transport a variety of substrates, including estrone sulfate, taurocholate, digoxin, and prostaglandin E2 across cell membranes. Moreover, it can mediate either efflux or uptake via a facilitated diffusion mechanism, depending on the electrochemical gradient of its substrate. In polarized epithelial cells, OSTα-OSTβ protein is localized on the basolateral membrane and functions in the export or uptake of bile acids and steroids.
Here, we give a summary of the information of the two units of this complex regarding the structure, gene location, functions, phenotype of gene-deficient mice, and the recent findings.
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