Metallothionein in the central nervous system: Roles in protection, regeneration and cognition.
Metallothionein (MT) is an enigmatic protein, and its physiological role remains a matter of intense study and debate 50 years after its discovery. This is particularly true of its function in the central nervous system (CNS), where the challenge remains to link its known biochemical properties of metal binding and free radical scavenging to the intricate workings of brain. In this compilation of four reports, first delivered at the 11th International Neurotoxicology Association (INA-11) Meeting, June 2007, the authors present the work of their laboratories, each of which gives an important insight into the actions of MT in the brain. What emerges is that MT has the potential to contribute to a variety of processes, including neuroprotection, regeneration, and even cognitive functions. In this article, the properties and CNS expression of MT are briefly reviewed before Dr Hidalgo describes his pioneering work using transgenic models of MT expression to demonstrate how this protein plays a major role in the defence of the CNS against neurodegenerative disorders and other CNS injuries. His group's work leads to two further questions, what are the mechanisms at the cellular level by which MT acts, and does this protein influence higher order issues of architecture and cognition? These topics are addressed in the second and third sections of this review by Dr West, and Dr Levin and Dr Eddins, respectively. Finally, Dr Aschner examines the ability of MT to protect against a specific toxicant, methylmercury, in the CNS.
West, AK; Hidalgo, J; Eddins, D; Levin, ED; Aschner, M
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