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Gene. 2012 Sep 15;506(2):310-6. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2012.07.002. Epub 2012 Jul 13.

The nucleotide sequence of metallothioneins (MT) in liver of the Kafue lechwe (Kobus leche kafuensis) and their potential as biomarkers of heavy metal pollution of the Kafue River.

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  • 1Department of Disease Control, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zambia, P.O. Box 32379, Lusaka, Zambia.


The study determined heavy metal concentrations and MT1 nucleotide sequence [phylogeny] in liver of the Kafue lechwe. Applicability of MT1 as a biomarker of pollution was assessed. cDNA-encoding sequences for lechwe MT1 were amplified by RT-PCR to characterize the sequence of MT1 which was subjected to BLAST searching at NCBI. Phylogenetic relationships were based on pairwise matrix of sequence divergences calculated by Clustal W. Phylogenetic tree was constructed by NJ method using PHILLIP program. Metals were extracted by acid digestion and concentrations of Cr, Co, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb, and Ni were determined using an AAS. MT1 mRNA expression levels were measured by quantitative comparative real-time RT-PCR. Lechwe MT1 has a length of 183bp, which encode for MT1 proteins of 61AA, which include 20 cysteines. Nucleotide sequence of lechwe MT1 showed identity with sheep MT (97%) and cattle MT1E (97%). Phylogenetic tree revealed that lechwe MT1 was clustered with sheep MT and cattle MT1E. Cu and Ni concentrations and MT1 mRNA expression levels of lechwe from Blue Lagoon were significantly higher than those from Lochinvar (p<0.05). Concentrations of Cd and Cu, Co and Cu, Co and Pb, Ni and Cu, and Ni and Cr were positively correlated. Spearman's rank correlations also showed positive correlations between Cu and Co concentrations and MT mRNA expression. PCA further suggested that MT mRNA expression was related to Zn and Cd concentrations. Hepatic MT1 mRNA expression in lechwe can be used as biomarker of heavy metal pollution.

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