This article encompasses my perception of, and experience in, an exciting segment of the trace element era in nutrition research: the role of zinc in the nutrition of animals and humans. Zinc has been a major player on the stage of trace element research, and it has left a trail that has galvanized the attention of many researchers, including myself. It is ubiquitous in biological systems, and it plays a multitude of physiologic and biochemical functions. A brief historical overview is followed by a discussion of the contributions the work done in my laboratory has made toward understanding the physiological and biochemical functions of zinc. The effort of 40 years has led to the belief that one of zinc's major roles, and perhaps its first limiting role, is to preserve plasma-membrane function as regards ion channels and signal transduction. Although substantial knowledge has been gained relating to the importance of zinc in nutrition, much remains to be discovered.


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