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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1992 Dec;117(2):242-8.

Accumulation and degradation of the protein moiety of cadmium-metallothionein (CdMT) in the mouse kidney.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City 66160.


Of major concern in Cd toxicity is its ability to produce renal damage after chronic exposure in humans and experimental animals. Renal injury affects predominantly the proximal tubules and more specifically the first segments of these tubules. Similar toxic effects to the kidneys are observed after administration of cadmium bound to metallothionein (CdMT). Therefore, CdMT was used in this study as a model to understand the mechanism(s) of Cd nephrotoxicity. It has been recently demonstrated that Cd from CdMT was preferentially taken up by the proximal convoluted tubules. Therefore, the purpose of these studies was to determine if the organic portion of the complex was also accumulated in these tubules. [35S]CdMT prepared from rat liver was administered intravenously to mice at a nonnephrotoxic dose (0.1 mg Cd/kg). The radioactivity in the kidney showed maximum level (80% of the dose) 15 min after the injection. This preferential renal uptake was also observed after administration of various doses of [35S]CdMT. In contrast to the earlier observed persistency of 109Cd in the kidney after 109CdMT administration, 35S disappeared rapidly (with a half-life of approximately 2 hr), and 24 hr after injection of [35S]CdMT, there was very little 35S left in the kidneys. These observations indicate that the protein portion of CdMT is rapidly degraded after renal uptake of CdMT and the released Cd is retained in the kidney. Within the kidney, 35S distributed mainly to the cortex. Light microscopic autoradiography showed that [35S]CdMT preferentially distributed to the proximal convoluted tubule (S1 and S2), which is the site of nephrotoxicity. Within the S1 and S2 segments, a greater distribution of 35S to the apical portion of the cells was observed after administration of both a nonnephrotoxic (0.1 mg Cd/kg) and a nephrotoxic (0.3 mg Cd/kg) dose. 109Cd administered as 109CdMT also distributed to the apical portion of the S1 and S2 cells. Therefore, both the organic (35S) and inorganic (109Cd) portions of CdMT are rapidly and efficiently taken up by the S1 and S2 cells of the proximal tubules, the site of nephrotoxicity. These observations support the concept that CdMT is readily taken up by the proximal tubular cells as a complex, and then its protein portion is rapidly degraded to release Cd that binds permanently to intracellular sites and produces nephrotoxicity.

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