Zinc as a countermeasure for cadmium toxicity

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2021 Mar;42(3):340-346. doi: 10.1038/s41401-020-0396-4. Epub 2020 Apr 13.


Cadmium (Cd) is an important environmental pollutant and long-term Cd exposure is closely related to autoimmune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), and hepatic dysfunction. Zinc (Zn) is an essential metal that plays key roles in protein structure, catalysis, and regulation of their function. Numerous studies have shown that Zn can reduce Cd toxicity; however, the underlying mechanisms have not been extensively explored. Preclinical studies have revealed direct competition for sarcolemmal uptake between these two metals. Multiple sarcolemmal transporters participate in Cd uptake, including Zn transporters, calcium channels, and DMT1 (divalent metal transporter 1). Zn also induces several protective mechanisms, including MT (metallothionein) induction and favorable redox homeostasis. This review summarizes current knowledge related to the role of Zn and metal transporters in reducing Cd toxicity and discusses potential future directions of related research.

Keywords: Zinc; Zinc transporters; cadmium; metallothionein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Cadmium / metabolism*
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Zinc / metabolism*
  • Zinc / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Cadmium
  • Metallothionein
  • Zinc