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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 101659, 7 pages
Review Article

Metallothionein as an Anti-Inflammatory Mediator

1Environmental Health Sciences Division, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba 305-8506, Japan
2Department of Veterinary Pathology, Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University, 101 Kozan-cho, Tottori 680-8553, Japan
3Department of Hygienics, Aichi Pharmaceutical University, 1-100 Kusumoto-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-0037, Japan

Received 10 October 2008; Accepted 26 February 2009

Academic Editor: Fulvio D’Acquisto

Copyright © 2009 Ken-ichiro Inoue et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The integration of knowledge concerning the regulation of MT, a highly conserved, low molecular weight, cystein-rich metalloprotein, on its proposed functions is necessary to clarify how MT affects cellular processes. MT expression is induced/enhanced in various tissues by a number of physiological mediators. The cellular accumulation of MT depends on the availability of cellular zinc derived from the diet. MT modulates the binding and exchange/transport of heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium, or copper under physiological conditions and cytoprotection from their toxicities, and the release of gaseous mediators such as hydroxyl radicals or nitric oxide. In addition, MT reportedly affects a number of cellular processes, such as gene expression, apoptosis, proliferation, and differentiation. Given the genetic approach, the apparently healthy status of MT-deficient mice argues against an essential biological role for MT; however, this molecule may be critical in cells/tissues/organs in times of stress, since MT expression is also evoked/enhanced by various stresses. In particular, because metallothionein (MT) is induced by inflammatory stress, its roles in inflammation are implied. Also, MT expression in various organs/tissues can be enhanced by inflammatory stimuli, implicating in inflammatory diseases. In this paper, we review the role of MT of various inflammatory conditions.