Metallothionein’s (MTs) are the lower molecular weight (6-7 kDa) proteins that are found to be present in almost all organism types ranging from prokaryotes to eukaryotes species. MT are the metal detecting proteins that can mitigate the effect caused by the excess metal ions. They are also found to be involved in cellular process such as cell growth regulation, ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) and DNA repair. The protein was termed as Metallothionein due to the unusual higher metal (metallo) and the sulfur (thiol) content. They are further grouped into 3 classes viz., class I, II and III. The Class I and II MTs are polypeptides that were obtained from direct gene products, the class III MTs are from the cysteine-rich non-translational molecules that are termed as phytochelatins. The metal ions are been sequestered through the MTs with Cys rich motifs. All the cysteines are present in the reduced form and are been co-ordinated through the mercaptide bonds. The cysteines present in the MTs are preserved across the species, it is supposed that, cysteines are essential for the function and the MTs are required for the life. Metallothionins structure, conservation in evolution, their ubiquitous nature of occurrence, the genes redundancy and the programmed MTs synthesis in development, regeneration and reproduction of living organisms are some of the weighty arguments in suspecting MTs to also serve others and perhaps the high particular metal-related cellular roles. In this chapter, there is a detailed discussion about Metallothionein its structure, occurrence and function.
Part of the book: Heavy Metals