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Comp Biochem Physiol C. 1987;86(1):1-6.

Displacement of zinc and copper from copper-induced metallothionein by cadmium and by mercury: in vivo and ex vivo studies.


The in vitro affinity of metals for metallothionein (MT) is Zn less than Cd less than Cu less than Hg. In a previous study Cd(II) and Hg(II) displaced Zn(II) from rat hepatic Zn7-MT in vivo and ex vivo (Day et al., 1984, Chem. Biol. Interact. 50, 159-174). The ability of Cd(II) or Hg(II) to displace Zn(II) and/or Cu(II) from metallothionein in copper-preinduced rat liver (Zn, Cu-MT) was assessed. Cd(II) and Hg(II) can displace zinc from (Zn, Cu)-MT both in vivo and ex vivo. The in vitro displacement of copper from MT by Hg(II) was not confirmed in vivo and ex vivo. Cd(II) treatment did not alter copper levels in (Zn, Cu)-MT, as expected. Hg(II) treatment, however, did not decrease copper levels in MT, but rather increased them. The sum of the copper increase and mercury incorporation into MT matched the zinc decrease under in vivo conditions and actually exceeded the zinc decrease under ex vivo conditions. Short-term exposure of rat liver to exogenous metals can result in incorporation of these metals into MT by displacement of zinc from pre-existing MT. Displacement of copper from pre-existing MT by mercury, as predicted by in vitro experiments, was not confirmed under the conditions of our in vivo and ex vivo experiments. This result is explainable based on the differing affinities and/or preferences of the two metal clusters in MT.

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