Neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties of metallothioneins

IUBMB Life. 2012 Feb;64(2):126-35. doi: 10.1002/iub.585. Epub 2011 Nov 30.


Metallothioneins (MTs) are low-molecular weight cysteine- and metal-rich proteins with unquestionable metal binding capacity, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and a clear involvement in diverse physiological actions as inhibition of proapoptotic mechanisms, enhancement of cell survival, and tissue regeneration. Concurrent with this wide array of functions, MT-1/2 have been implicated in neuroprotection and neuroregeneration. The zinc binding capacity and antioxidant properties of MTs may account for most of their physiological features in the brain. However, some receptor-mediated actions of MT-1/2 have also been reported recently, a subject to be fully elucidated. This review analyses and updates the current knowledge on the actions of MTs related to neuroprotection and neuroregeneration in an effort to distinguish receptor-mediated actions of MTs from those arising from its zinc binding capacity and its antioxidant properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / physiology
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Cytoprotection
  • Humans
  • Metallothionein / genetics
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Metallothionein / physiology*
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Copper
  • Metallothionein
  • RNF216 protein, human
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases