Metallothionein has a well-documented protective and proregenerative effect in the mammalian brain, particularly following physical trauma and ischemia or during the onset of neurodegenerative disease. A range of mechanisms have been established for this, including metallothionein's metal binding properties and its ability to scavenge free radicals. In recent years it has become apparent that metallothionein is present in the extracellular compartment of the central nervous system and that it can interact with cell surface receptors of the lipoprotein-receptor-related protein family, including lipoprotein-receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1) and megalin. These interactions activate intracellular pathways which are consistent with many of the observed effects of metallothionein in the central nervous system, including its effects on neurons, glial cells, and cells of the immune system. The evidence describing the release, receptor interactions, and subsequent physiological consequences of metallothionein is discussed in this review.