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

Production of hydroxyl radicals by copper-containing metallothionein: roles as prooxidant.

Production of hydroxyl radicals by copper (Cu)-containing metallothionein ( MT) and its relation to zinc (Zn) bound to MT were studied in vitro with reference to the mechanism of the Cu toxicity in the liver of LEC rats. Zn- MT prepared from the liver of Zn-injected rats was reacted with cupric ions at various Cu/Zn ratios, and the concentrations of the two metals bound to MT and in the solution, valence states of Cu in the solution, production of hydroxyl radicals were determined. Cupric ions replaced Zn in MT after being reduced by thiol groups, and MT, worked as an antioxidant. Cupric ions added to MT that did not contain Zn were reduced to cuprous ions by thiol groups in Cu- MT, and the Cu bound to MT was liberated in a form of cuprous ions. Hydroxyl radicals were produced in the presence of hydrogen peroxide in proportion to the amount of cuprous ions liberated from MT. Cu-containing MT was proposed to work as a prooxidant until all thiol groups in MT were oxidized when Zn was not present in MT. The results indicate that MT works as an antioxidant as long as Zn is present in Cu-containing MT, while it works as a prooxidant when Zn is not present by liberating 1.5 M equivalents of cuprous ions relative to cupric ions added, and hydroxyl radicals are produced in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. On the other hand, MT not bound by Cu does not work as a prooxidant throughout.[1]


  1. Production of hydroxyl radicals by copper-containing metallothionein: roles as prooxidant. Suzuki, K.T., Rui, M., Ueda, J., Ozawa, T. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. (1996) [Pubmed]
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