Growth inhibition and metallothionein induction in cadmium-resistant cells by essential and non-essential metals

Mol Pharmacol. 1983 Jul;24(1):77-83.


Essential and non-essential metal ions were compared on the basis of their growth-inhibitory potency and their mediation of metallothionein induction in a Chinese hamster ovary cell line resistant to cadmium. Cadmium-resistant cells were found to be 20-fold and 6-fold more resistant than wild-type Chinese hamster ovary cells to the non-essential metals CdCl2 and HgCl2, respectively. In contrast, cadmium-resistant cells showed 2-fold or less resistance to growth inhibition due to the metals with known or possible biological essentiality, ZnCl2, CuSO4, CoCl2, and NiCl2. Resistance to either cadmium or mercury was not due to decreased uptake as measured isotopically or by X-ray fluorescence. At concentrations near the threshold of growth inhibition, CdCl2 and ZnCl2 induced metallothionein 8- to 10-fold above background levels in cadmium-resistant cells within 8-10 hr. A 2- to 3-fold induction of this protein was produced in resistant cells by levels of HgCl2, CuSO4, and CoCl2 near the threshold of growth inhibition whereas NiCl2 produced no measurable elevations of metallothionein at concentrations below, near, and above those that inhibit cell growth. Induction of metallothionein was measured by a modified 203Hg binding assay and by [35S]cysteine incorporation. No measurable induction of metallothionein was evident in wild-type cells with any metal treatment using a reasonable quantity of cells consistent with our assay. These results in cadmium-resistant cells demonstrate selective induction of metallothionein by various metals and suggest that induction of this protein alone is not solely responsible for differences in the growth-inhibitory potential of these elements.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / pharmacology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Mercury / metabolism
  • Metalloproteins / biosynthesis*
  • Metallothionein / biosynthesis*
  • Metals / pharmacology*
  • Metals / physiology
  • Ovary


  • Metalloproteins
  • Metals
  • Cadmium
  • Metallothionein
  • Mercury