Cellular mechanisms of cadmium-induced toxicity: a review

Int J Environ Health Res. 2014 Aug;24(4):378-99. doi: 10.1080/09603123.2013.835032. Epub 2013 Oct 11.


Cadmium is a widespread toxic pollutant of occupational and environmental concern because of its diverse toxic effects: extremely protracted biological half-life (approximately 20-30 years in humans), low rate of excretion from the body and storage predominantly in soft tissues (primarily, liver and kidneys). It is an extremely toxic element of continuing concern because environmental levels have risen steadily due to continued worldwide anthropogenic mobilization. Cadmium is absorbed in significant quantities from cigarette smoke, food, water and air contamination and is known to have numerous undesirable effects in both humans and animals. Cadmium has a diversity of toxic effects including nephrotoxicity, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity and endocrine and reproductive toxicities. At the cellular level, cadmium affects cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and other cellular activities. Current evidence suggests that exposure to cadmium induces genomic instability through complex and multifactorial mechanisms. Most important seems to be cadmium interaction with DNA repair mechanism, generation of reactive oxygen species and induction of apoptosis. In this article, we have reviewed recent developments and findings on cadmium toxicology.

Keywords: DNA repair; apoptosis; cadmium; metallothionein; oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cadmium Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Cadmium Compounds / toxicity*
  • Cadmium Poisoning* / genetics
  • Cadmium Poisoning* / metabolism
  • Cadmium Poisoning* / pathology
  • DNA Repair*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Organ Specificity
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*


  • Cadmium Compounds
  • Environmental Pollutants