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Kidney Blood Press Res. 2005;28(3):127-33. Epub 2005 Apr 5.

Induction of metallothionein in proximal tubular cells by zinc and its potential as an endogenous antioxidant.

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Division of General Internal Medicine and Nephrology, Department of Internal Medicine, Robert Bosch Krankenhaus, Stuttgart, Germany.



This study was undertaken to gain further insights into the expression of metallothionein (MT) in kidney, to define the necessary dosage of a metal (zinc) to achieve induction of MT and to evaluate the antioxidative potential of MT in comparison to other more common antioxidative therapeutics, like N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), and endogenous molecules, like glutathione.


MT was measured in renal specimens from cadaver kidneys from patients with chronic diseases (n = 76) and controls (n = 21) by immunohistochemistry. In addition, induction experiments were performed in cell cultures of proximal tubular cells (LCC-PK1) and MT measured on the RNA and protein level (immunohistochemistry, Western and dot blotting). Antioxidative potential of MT was compared to NAC and glutathione.


MT was restricted to tubular cells with no differences between controls and patients. Zn caused a dose-dependent increase of MT on the RNA as well as on the protein level (RNA (ratio MT/histone 3.3): control 0.34 +/- 0.12; Zn 17 microM 0.65 +/- 0.26; Zn 35 microM 1.25 +/- 0.43 (p < 0.05), Zn 52 microM 1.35 +/- 0.46 (p < 0.05), and protein: 5.8-fold increase from 47 +/- 13 mg/g total protein (n = 6) to 272 +/- 140 mg/g total protein (n = 6)). The antioxidative effect of MT was equal to NAC and glutathione.


Induction of renal MT by zinc is easily achievable and might be an interesting therapeutic and preventive tool against oxidative stress.

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