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J Nutr. 2001 Aug;131(8):2132-8.

Dietary zinc deficiency and repletion modulate metallothionein immunolocalization and concentration in small intestine and liver of rats.

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Department of Foods and Nutrition, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2 Canada.


Metallothionein (MT) functions in zinc (Zn) homeostasis and dietary Zn affects tissue MT concentration. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of dietary Zn deficiency and 24-h Zn repletion on MT immunolocalization and concentration in the small intestine and liver of growing rats. Three-week-old rats fed Zn-deficient diet (< 1 mg Zn/kg) for 16 d had no MT staining in either small intestine or liver. After 24-h Zn repletion with control diet (30 mg Zn/kg), strong MT staining was observed in intestinal Paneth cells and surface epithelial cells in the proliferative regions of villi. Pair-fed control rats had strong MT staining in liver that was localized around central veins. After 24-h energy repletion, the hepatic MT staining diminished. Furthermore, Zn-deficient rats had significantly reduced intestinal (57%) and hepatic (61%) MT concentrations but unaffected Zn concentrations compared with controls that consumed food ad libitum. Zn repletion for 24 h restored intestinal and hepatic MT concentrations and reduced hepatic Zn concentration. Pair-fed control rats had elevated MT concentration in liver that was normalized by energy repletion. There was a significant positive correlation between tissue Zn and MT concentrations in liver (r = 0.60, P = 0.0001), but not in small intestine. In summary, MT immunolocalization and concentration in rat small intestine and liver were responsive to changes in Zn status, supporting the role of MT in Zn metabolism. Cell-type-specific localization of MT in small intestine after dietary Zn manipulations indicates a function of Zn and MT in gut immunity and intestinal mucosal turnover, and the pattern of hepatic MT distribution with energy restriction may be linked to detoxification processes.

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