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Cell. 1984 May;37(1):263-72.

Structural and functional analysis of the human metallothionein-IA gene: differential induction by metal ions and glucocorticoids.


We describe a region of human DNA containing four metallothionein (hMT) genes. One of these genes, hMT-IA, was found to encode a functional protein that confers heavy metal resistance to NIH 3T3 cells after transfer on a bovine papilloma virus-derived vector. This gene is expressed in cultured human cell lines, but at a lower basal level than the hMT-IIA gene; it shows a different induction response to heavy metals and glucocorticoids than the hMT-IIA gene. Induction of the human MT family therefore does not represent an equivalent elevation in the level of expression of individual genes, but is the sum of the differential responses of active members. The differential response is due to functional differences of the respective promoter/regulatory regions of the genes as shown by gene-fusion experiments. While the hMT-IIA promoter is responsive to Cd++, Zn++, and glucocorticoids, the hMT-IA promoter mediates response only to Cd++.

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