Zinc-metallothionein protects from DNA damage induced by radiation better than glutathione and copper- or cadmium-metallothioneins

Toxicol Lett. 2003 Jan 13;136(3):193-8. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4274(02)00359-4.


Protection of radiation-induced DNA damage by metallothionein (MT) has been documented, but there is no detailed information about its efficiency compared to other antioxidants or the effect of metals which bind to MT on the protective effect of MT in radiation-induced DNA damage. In this study, we used a cell-free system to investigate the effect of MT with other antioxidants, such as albumin and glutathione and we compared the efficiency of MT bound to different metals on radiation-induced DNA damage. DNA damage was measured by loss in ethidium bromide/DNA fluorescence and increased mobility of DNA on gel electrophoresis. Gamma rays at 30 Gy induced significant DNA damage and zinc-MT showed a significant higher protection from radiation-induced DNA damage than both glutathione and albumin. Metallothionein bound to other metals, such as copper and cadmium, also showed protection of radiation-induced DNA damage, but the protective effect by zinc-MT was the highest. These results suggest that MT, in particular bound to zinc, is a high-capacity antioxidant to protect radiation-induced DNA damage.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Cell-Free System
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / drug effects
  • DNA / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Gamma Rays
  • Glutathione / pharmacology*
  • Metallothionein / pharmacology*
  • Radiation Effects
  • Radiation-Protective Agents*


  • Antioxidants
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • cadmium-binding protein
  • copper thionein
  • zinc thionein
  • DNA
  • Metallothionein
  • Glutathione