Localization of metallothionein in the brain of rat and mouse

J Histochem Cytochem. 1992 Feb;40(2):309-15. doi: 10.1177/40.2.1552172.


Metallothionein (MT) is a low molecular mass protein inducible by heavy metals such as cadmium (Cd), zinc, and copper, and having high affinity for these metals. In the present study, we investigated the immunohistological localization of MT in the brains of rats and mice. In adult rat brain, almost no MT immunostaining was observed, whereas in adult mouse brain strong MT immunostaining was found in the ependymal cells, some glial cells, arachnoid, and pia mater. No immunostaining was detected in neurons and endothelial cells. In younger rats (1-3 weeks old), strong MT immunostaining was observed in ependymal cells, choroid plexus epithelium, arachnoid, and pia mater. The overall MT concentration in adult mouse brain appeared higher than that of the brains of young and adult rats. When adult rats were administered Cd, MT was induced not only in some glial cells, ependymal cells, arachnoid, and pia mater but also in endothelial cells. Although Cd treatment resulted in an increase in the MT immunostaining in the specific cells described above, the MT induction was not great enough to significantly affect the overall MT level in the brain. The present result suggest a possible link of MT with cell growth of choroid plexus epithelium and ependymal cells, as well as a detoxifying role of MT in the blood-brain barrier and the cerebrospinal fluid-brain barrier.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Cadmium / pharmacology
  • Cadmium Chloride
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Male
  • Metallothionein / analysis*
  • Metallothionein / biosynthesis
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Reference Values
  • Species Specificity


  • Cadmium
  • Metallothionein
  • Cadmium Chloride