, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 339-351

Expression of metallothionein genes during the post-embryonic development of Drosophila melanogaster

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Expression of the two Drosophila melanogaster metallothionein genes, Mtn and Mto, has been analyzed by in situ hybridization during post-embryonic development. Mtn and Mto transcripts were detected exclusively in the digestive tract of larvae, pupae and adults reared on standard medium. Mtn and Mto expression domains overlap, but each gene is also expressed at unique sites. Mtn mRNA levels are approximately 10 and 20 times higher than those of Mto in larvae and adults, respectively. Copper and cadmium ions strongly induce Mtn and Mto mRNA accumulation in the midgut. Zinc is a weaker inducer, acting only at high concentrations. Mtn gene expression is induced by these three metals in Malpighian tubules, while Mto gene expression in this organ is induced only by zinc. Iron is a poor inducer of metallothionein mRNA accumulation. Functions of MTN and MTO proteins in metal homeostasis and detoxification are considered.