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Aquat Toxicol. 2013 Oct 15;142-143:422-30. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2013.09.010. Epub 2013 Sep 23.

Transcription patterns of genes encoding four metallothionein homologs in Daphnia pulex exposed to copper and cadmium are time- and homolog-dependent.

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  • 1Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Electronic address:


Metallothioneins are proteins that play an essential role in metal homeostasis and detoxification in nearly all organisms studied to date. Yet discrepancies between outcomes of chronic and acute exposure experiments hamper the understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of their isoforms following metal exposure. Here, we investigated transcriptional differences among four identified homologs (mt1-mt4) in Daphnia pulex exposed across time to copper and cadmium relative to a control. Transcriptional upregulation of mt1 and mt3 was detected on day four following exposure to cadmium, whereas that of mt2 and mt4 was detected on day two and day eight following exposure to copper. These results confirm temporal and metal-specific differences in the transcriptional induction of genes encoding metallothionein homologs upon metal exposure which should be considered in ecotoxicological monitoring programs of metal-contaminated water bodies. Indeed, the mRNA expression patterns observed here illustrate the complex regulatory system associated with metallothioneins, as these patterns are not only dependent on the metal, but also on exposure time and the homolog studied. Further phylogenetic analysis and analysis of regulatory elements in upstream promoter regions revealed a high degree of similarity between metallothionein genes of Daphnia pulex and Daphnia magna, a species belonging to the same genus. These findings, combined with a limited amount of available expression data for D. magna metallothionein genes, tentatively suggest a potential generalization of the metallothionein response system between these Daphnia species.


Daphnia; Expression; Metallothioneins; Metals

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