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J Exp Med. 2001 Dec 3;194(11):1617-24.

A mediator role for metallothionein in tumor necrosis factor-induced lethal shock.

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  • 1Department of Medical Protein Research, Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology, University of Ghent, B9000 Ghent, Belgium.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a proinflammatory cytokine, which is centrally involved in several inflammatory disorders. Administration of TNF leads to a potentially lethal systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). We observed that (a) mice lacking functional genes for metallothionein 1 and 2 (MT-null) were protected compared with wild-type controls (P = 0.0078), and (b) mice overexpressing MT-1 (MT-TG) were more sensitized for the lethal effect of TNF than control mice (P = 0.0003), indicating a mediating role for MT in TNF induced SIRS. As MT is involved in the body zinc homeostasis, we tested whether zinc-deprivation or -supplementation alters the response to TNF. Although zinc-depletion strongly sensitized (P = 0.036), and pretreatment with zinc sulfate (ZnSO4) conferred protection against the deleterious effects of TNF (P < 0.0002), it was also found that the protection provided by zinc is independent of MT. Our observation that hsp70 is strongly induced in jejunum after ZnSO4 treatment, suggests a contribution of hsp70 in the protection against TNF. In addition, ZnSO4 cotreatment allowed complete regression of inoculated tumors with TNF and interferon gamma, leading to a significantly better survival (P = 0.0045).

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