Specialized nucleoside transporter (NT) proteins are required for passage of nucleosides and hydrophilic nucleoside analogues across biological membranes. Physiologic nucleosides serve as central salvage metabolites in nucleotide biosynthesis, and nucleoside analogues are used as chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of cancer and antiviral diseases. The nucleoside adenosine modulates numerous cellular events via purino-receptor cell signalling pathways. Human NTs are divided into two structurally unrelated protein families: the SLC28 concentrative nucleoside transporter (CNT) family and the SLC29 equilibrative nucleoside transporter (ENT) family. Human CNTs are inwardly directed Na+-dependent nucleoside transporters found predominantly in intestinal and renal epithelial and other specialized cell types. Human ENTs mediate bidirectional fluxes of purine and pyrimidine nucleosides down their concentration gradients and are ubiquitously found in most, possibly all, cell types. Both protein families are evolutionarily old: CNTs are present in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes; ENTs are widely distributed in mammalian, lower vertebrate and other eukaryote species. This mini-review describes a 30-year collaboration with Professor Stephen Baldwin to identify and understand the structures and functions of these physiologically and clinically important transport proteins.

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