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Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 2000 Mar;46(2):331-46.

Metallothioneins in terrestrial invertebrates: structural aspects, biological significance and implications for their use as biomarkers.

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1
Institut für Zoologie und Limnologie der Universität Innsbruck, Abteilung Okophysiologie, Austria. reinhard.dallinger@uibk.ac.at

Abstract

During the last few years the subject of metallothioneins (MTs) in terrestrial invertebrates has gained increasing attention. One reason for this may be that terrestrial invertebrates provide new insights into the biological diversity of MTs, with the potential of discovering alternative models of structural and functional relationships. Four groups of terrestrial invertebrates have been studied in detail, namely nematodes, insects, snails and earthworms, with the present article focusing on MTs from the latter two groups. Snails are interesting because they possess distinct MT isoforms involved in different metal-specific tasks. In the Roman snail (Helix pomatia), for example, one isoform is predominantly expressed in the midgut gland, accounting for the accumulation, binding and detoxification of cadmium. The second isoform, which is present in the snail's mantle, is substantially different regarding its primary structure. Furthermore, it binds nearly exclusively copper, and thus is probably involved in the homeostatic regulation of essential trace elements. Earthworm MTs merit our attention because of another peculiarity: they seem to be much more unstable than snail MTs, particularly under conventional conditions of preparation. The cDNA of the brandling worm (Eisenia foetida), for instance, codes for a putative MT, which is about twice the size of the actual protein. The isolated MT peptide binds four Cd2+ ions and represents a one-domain MT entity that is stable and functional in vitro. This strongly suggests that earthworm MTs are either posttranslationally modified, or subjected to enzymatic cleavage during preparation. Both snail and earthworm MTs are inducible by metal exposure, especially by cadmium, thus supporting the idea of using them as potential biomarkers for environmental metal pollution. Whilst snail MTs have already been tested in this respect with some success, the use of earthworm MTs as biomarkers still remains to be evaluated, especially in the light of the unknown significance of their posttranslational instability.

PMID:
10774923
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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