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Drug Metab Rev. 1997 Feb-May;29(1-2):261-307.

Metallothionein in physiological and physiopathological processes.

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Département de Pharmacologie, Faculté de Médicine, Université de Montréal, Succ. Centre-Ville, Québec, Canada.


The multipurpose nature of MT that we have presented in this review has drawn attention from many different fields of research: biochemistry, molecular biology, toxicology, pharmacology, etc. In recent years, considerable advances have been made concerning the regulation of MT genes by metals. Little, however, is known at the molecular level about the mechanisms of MT induction by nonmetallic inducers such as growth factors. This is of particular interest since MT is highly expressed during liver regeneration, an event orchestrated by a series of growth stimulators and inhibitors. The significance of the nuclear distribution of MT in growing cells and what controls its translocation are questions that remain unanswered at the present time. The possibility that MT could participate in a DNA synthesis-related process through donation or abstraction of Zn to and from transcription factors has been inferred from in vitro studies. Such transfer mechanisms, however, have yet to be confirmed in vivo. Overexpression of MT is often accompanied by increased resistance towards a variety of alkylating agents and chemotherapeutic drugs. The mechanisms by which MT protects cells against these agents may depend on their distinct mode of toxic action. For some, MT cysteines can be the target of the direct attack from the parent compound. For others such as N-methyl-N-nitroso compounds, MT cysteines may serve as a sink for the reactive oxygen species now known to be derived from their metabolism. In either case, a primary consequence of such interactions is the release of the metals initially bound to MT. Therefore, the metal composition of MT appears to be an important factor to consider in determining the overall effect of MT in the resistance process.

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