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Chemical Biology

Metallothioneins Are Required for Formation of Cross-Adaptation Response to Neurobehavioral Toxicity from Lead and Mercury Exposure in Nematodes
Published: Thursday, November 18, 2010
Author: Boping Ye et al.

by Boping Ye, Qi Rui, Qiuli Wu, Dayong Wang

Metallothioneins (MTs) are small, cysteine-rich polypeptides, but the role of MTs in inducing the formation of adaptive response is still largely unknown. We investigated the roles of metallothionein genes (mtl-1 and mtl-2) in the formation of cross-adaptation response to neurobehavioral toxicity from metal exposure in Caenorhabditis elegans. Pre-treatment with mild heat-shock at L2-larva stage effectively prevented the formation of the neurobehavioral defects and the activation of severe stress response in metal exposed nematodes at concentrations of 50 and 100 µM, but pre-treatment with mild heat-shock did not prevent the formation of neurobehavioral defects in 200 µM of metal exposed nematodes. During the formation of cross-adaptation response, the induction of mtl-1 and mtl-2 promoter activity and subsequent GFP gene expression were sharply increased in 50 µM or 100 µM of metal exposed Pmtl-1::GFP and Pmtl-2::GFP transgenic adult animals after mild heat-shock treatment compared with those treated with mild heat-shock or metal exposure alone. Moreover, after pre-treatment with mild heat-shock, no noticeable increase of locomotion behaviors could be observed in metal exposed mtl-1 or mtl-2 mutant nematodes compared to those without mild heat-shock pre-treatment. The defects of adaptive response to neurobehavioral toxicity induced by metal exposure formed in mtl-1 and mtl-2 mutants could be completely rescued by the expression of mtl-1 and mtl-2 with the aid of their native promoters. Furthermore, over-expression of MTL-1 and MTL-2 at the L2-larval stage significantly suppressed the toxicity on locomotion behaviors from metal exposure at all examined concentrations. Therefore, the normal formation of cross-adaptation response to neurobehavioral toxicity induced by metal exposure may need the enough accumulation of MTs protein in animal tissues.