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Toxicol Lett. 2003 Apr 30;142(1-2):11-8.

Property of metallothionein as a Zn pool differs depending on the induced condition of metallothionein.

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Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tokushima Bunri University, 180 Yamashiro-cho, Tokushima 770-8514, Japan.


Metallothionein (MT) is a low-molecular-weight, cysteine-rich, heavy metal-binding protein with several putative physiological functions as a radical scavenger and a regulator of metabolism of Zn. Although the induction of hepatic MT by a wide range of stressors is a well-known phenomenon, little is known about the role of MT in stressful situations. Since MT regulates Zn metabolism, we investigated the differences between affinities of MT for Zn in various stressful conditions in this study. Divalent cadmium ions are capable of displacement of Zn from MT in vitro. Therefore, we assayed the binding of Zn to MT induced by various stimuli using in vivo administration of Cd. MT was induced by paraquat (PQ), a reactive oxygen generator, fasting stress and restraint stress. Apo-MT induced by them bound to Zn in vivo. Zn, which bound to MT induced by PQ, was displaced by the administration of Cd. However, Zn that had bound to MT induced by fasting stress and restraint stress was not displaced by Cd. Moreover, we assessed the in vivo affinity of Zn to MT induced by fasting stress under the condition of subchronic Cd exposure. Cd was administered to mice by subcutaneously implanted Alzet osmotic minipumps, which released constant amounts of Cd over a 14-day period. After 4 days, mice were fasted for 24 h and hepatic MT was examined. Interestingly, it was found that Zn had displaced Cd bound to MT. These findings indicate that the affinity of MT for Zn differs depending on the stimulus by which MT was induced. This is the first report on differences in the properties of MT depending on the stimulus used to induce MT.

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