, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 975-976
Date: 09 Sep 2011

Metallothioneins: chemical and biological challenges

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Metallothioneins (MTs) belong to a superfamily of intriguing low-molecular mass cysteine- and metal-rich proteins, present in all living organisms. The first MT was discovered by the late Bert L. Vallee in 1957 [1]. His work and its impact on life sciences has been discussed by Williams [2] in the In Memoriam published in this journal last year. This Special Issue is dedicated to him in appreciation of his outstanding contributions not only to the field of zinc biochemistry but also to the MT field.

Metallothioneins, in addition to carbonic anhydrase in diatoms, are the only biological compounds in which cadmium accumulates naturally, the other metallic components usually being copper and zinc. In fact, zinc and/or copper are the principal metal constituents of MTs under normal physiological conditions. The binding of these metal ions is achieved through the formation of sulfur-based metal–thiolate clusters. Metallothioneins are intracellular proteins, but in higher organisms they can a ...

This article is part of a JBIC special issue on metallothioneins.