Metallothioneins attenuate methylmercury-induced neurotoxicity in cultured astrocytes and astrocytoma cells

Chang Ping Yao, Jeffrey W. Allen, Michael Aschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Metallothionein-I (MT-I) was expressed in neonatal rat primary astrocyte cultures and an astrocytoma cell line by pGFAP-MT-I plasmid transfection under the control of the astrocyte specific glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) promoter. Following transient transfection of the pGFAP-MT-I plasmid, MT-I mRNA and MT-I protein levels were determined by Northern blot and immunoprecipitation analyses, respectively. The ability of cells overexpressing MT-I to withstand acute methylmercury (MeHg) treatment was measured by the release of preloaded Na251CrO4, an indicator of membrane integrity. Transfection with the pGFAP-MT-I plasmid led to increased mRNA (2.5-fold in astrocytes and 7.4-fold in astrocytomas) and MT-I protein (2.4-fold in astrocytes and 4.0-fold in astrocytomas) levels compared with their respective controls. Increased expression of MT-I was associated with attenuated release of Na251CrO4 upon MeHg (5 μM) treatment. These results demonstrate that MT-I can be highly expressed both in primary astrocyte cultures and astrocytomas by pGFAP-MT-I plasmid transfection, and lend credence to the hypothesis that increased expression of MT-I affords protection against the cytotoxic effects of MeHg. Taken together, the data suggest that MTs offer effective cellular adaptation to MeHg cytotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-226
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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