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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Immunochemical detection of metallothionein in specific epithelial cells of rat organs.

The distribution of a heavy metal binding protein, metallothionein, was studied immunocytochemically by using antimetallothionein antibody and the immunoperoxidase staining technique on histological sections of liver, kidney, intestine, lung, and testis from cadmium-treated rats. These tissues either accumulate heavy metals (e.g., liver, kidney, and testis) or are exposed to metal by ingestion or inhalation (intestine and lung). Staining for metallothionein was observed intracellularly in epithelial parenchymal cells of the liver and kidney; all hepatocytes and most renal tubular cells stained for the protein. Accumulation of metallothionein was not seen in connective tissue cells surrounding either blood vessels or renal tubules. Extracellular localization of metallothionein was also observed in the liver sinusoids and within the lumina of the renal tubules, suggesting a metal transport or excretory function for this protein. Surface columnar epithelial cells of the intestinal villi indicated the presence of metallothionein but connective tissue cells of the lamina propria were negative for the protein. The granular secretory Paneth cells of the small intestine also stained strongly for metallothionein as did respiratory epithelial cells of the lung. In the testis, metallothionein was detected in the Sertoli cells and interstitial cells but not within the spermatogonia. Sertoli cells are closely associated with the developing spermatogonia and appear to serve a nutritive role in spermatogenesis. Because of the secretory, absorptive, or nutritive function of the metallothionein-localizing cells in the organs studied, we suggest that metallothionein may be involved in metal storage or transport in addition to its commonly proposed detoxification role.[1]


  1. Immunochemical detection of metallothionein in specific epithelial cells of rat organs. Danielson, K.G., Ohi, S., Huang, P.C. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1982) [Pubmed]
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