Post-translational modification of MTF-1 (metal-response-element-binding transcription factor-1) was suggested to play a role in its metalloregulatory functions. In the present study, pulse labelling and two-dimensional electrophoresis-Western blotting were used to demonstrate that, although MTF-1 is highly modified in vivo, its phosphorylation level does not rapidly change in response to metals, nor does its overall modification pattern. Recombinant MTF-1 was found to serve as an in vitro substrate for casein kinase II, c-Jun N-terminal kinase and protein kinase C, but inhibition of these kinases in vivo did not significantly change the modification pattern of MTF-1. Northern blotting revealed that inhibitors of casein kinase II and c-Jun N-terminal kinase severely attenuate the metal-induced transcription of the native chromatin-packaged metallothionein-I and zinc transporter-1 genes, whereas protein kinase C inhibitors exerted gene- and cell-type-specific effects on the metal regulation and basal expression of these two genes. A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay was used to demonstrate that none of these inhibitors prevent the metal-dependent recruitment of MTF-1 to the MT-I promoter. In brief, results of the present study suggest that protein kinases may not alter the phosphorylation state of MTF-1 during the rapid-response phase to metals, nor do they regulate the metal-dependent formation of a stable MTF-1-chromatin complex. Instead, protein kinases may exert their interdependent effects on metal-induced gene expression by acting on cofactors that interact with MTF-1.