Oxygen free radicals and metallothionein

Free Radic Biol Med. 1993 Mar;14(3):325-37. doi: 10.1016/0891-5849(93)90029-t.


It is generally accepted that the principal roles of metallothionein lie in the detoxification of heavy metals and regulation of the metabolism of essential trace metals. However, there is increasing evidence that it can act as a free radical scavenger. This article reviews the evidence supporting such a physiological role and describes induction of metallothionein synthesis by oxidative stress, possible mediators for this induction, and the radical scavenging capability of metallothionein in tissues and cells. The relationship between metallothionein and other antioxidant defense systems and the medical implications of the free radical scavenging properties of metallothionein are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Metallothionein / chemistry
  • Metallothionein / metabolism*
  • Metallothionein / pharmacology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Metallothionein