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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2007;39(4):832-41. Epub 2007 Jan 20.

Cloning and functional characterization of 5'-upstream region of metallothionein-I gene from crucian carp (Carassius cuvieri).

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.


Metallothioneins are low molecular weight, cysteine-rich, metal-binding proteins, which can be induced by heavy metal ions, cytokines, stress, and hormones. To investigate the roles of the main cis-acting elements involved in the inducible expression of metallothionein gene in fish, the 5'-upstream region of crucian carp (Carassius cuvieri) metallothionein-I gene had been cloned and analyzed after our previous work on metallothionein-II. In its upstream region, several putative cis-acting elements, including nine metal regulatory elements (MREs), one antioxidant response element, one E-box, and three interleukin-6 responsive elements, etc. were found. The nine metal regulatory elements are confined in less than 1000 bp from ATG start codon and organized into two clusters with different roles to the induction of the metallothionein-I expression. Deletion mutant assays demonstrated that both the distal and proximal clusters of metal regulatory elements contributed to the basal expression of the metallothionein-I, but only the proximal cluster was the chief contributor to the metal fold induction. In transient luciferase reporter assays, Zn2+ and Cd2+ served as much stronger inducers than Cu2+ to the metallothionein-I expression. H2O2 also could activate the metallothionein-I promoter about two-fold, which was mediated by the antioxidant response element (TGACAACGC, -437/-445). In conclusion, our studies demonstrate the roles of metal regulatory element and antioxidant response element in the induction of crucian carp metallothionein-I gene, and provide the regulatory mechanism for the use of fish metallothionein as a biomarker for monitoring of metal contamination in waters.

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