A large number of nutrients and bioactive ingredients found in milk play an important role in the nourishment of breast-fed infants and dairy consumers. Some of these ingredients include physiologically relevant compounds such as vitamins, peptides, neuroactive compounds and hormones. Conversely, milk may contain substances—drugs, pesticides, carcinogens, environmental pollutants—which have undesirable effects on health. The transfer of these compounds into milk is unavoidably linked to the function of transport proteins. Expression of transporters belonging to the ATP-binding cassette (ABC-) and Solute Carrier (SLC-) superfamilies varies with the lactation stages of the mammary gland. In particular, Organic Anion Transporting Polypeptides 1A2 (OATP1A2) and 2B1 (OATP2B1), Organic Cation Transporter 1 (OCT1), Novel Organic Cation Transporter 1 (OCTN1), Concentrative Nucleoside Transporters 1, 2 and 3 (CNT1, CNT2 and CNT3), Peptide Transporter 2 (PEPT2), Sodium-dependent Vitamin C Transporter 2 (SVCT2), Multidrug Resistance-associated Protein 5 (ABCC5) and Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (ABCG2) are highly induced during lactation. This review will focus on these transporters overexpressed during lactation and their role in the transfer of products into the milk, including both beneficial and harmful compounds. Furthermore, additional factors, such as regulation, polymorphisms or drug-drug interactions will be described.
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