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J Biol Chem. 1985 Nov 25;260(27):14464-70.

Yeast metallothionein. Sequence and metal-binding properties.


The protein product of the CUP1 locus in Cu-resistant Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been purified and characterized. The protein was found to lack the first 8 amino acids predicted by the nucleotide sequence of the gene. The residues removed from the amino-terminal region include 5 hydrophobic residues, two of which are aromatic. The unique amino terminus starting at Gln9 of the putative DNA translation product was observed for metallothionein purified in the presence of various protease inhibitors or from a pep4 mutant yeast strain deficient in vacuolar proteases. The remainder of the primary structure of the protein is equivalent to the decoded DNA sequence, so yeast metallothionein is a 53-residue polypeptide of molecular weight 5655. The isolated protein contained 8 copper ions ligated by 12 cysteines/molecule. Reconstitution studies of the apo-molecule revealed that 8 mol eq of Cu(I) conferred maximal stability against proteolysis and depleted the zinc content of zinc-saturated metallothionein. These assays suggested that the protein has 8 binding sites for Cu(I). Ag(I) ions bound to the protein with the same stoichiometry. Yeast metallothionein was also observed to coordinate Cd(II) and Zn(II) ions in vitro. In studies of direct binding, protection against proteolysis, and metal ion exchange, these divalent ions were found to associate with the protein with a maximal stoichiometry of 4 ions/molecule. Yeast metallothionein thus exhibits two distinct binding configurations for Cu(I) and Cd(II) as does the mammalian protein.

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