A symposium on the role of brain metallothioneins (MTs) in physiology and pathology was held at the 1996 Annual Society of Toxicology Meeting in Anaheim, California. The objectives of this symposium were to: (1) review the physiologic function of MTs, (2) examine the distribution of brain MTs with particular emphasis on cell-specific localization (neurons vs neuroglia), (3) discuss MT gene responsiveness upon toxic insult with metals, and (4) discuss the potential role of MTs in the etiology of neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Cherian discussed the biochemical properties of the MTs, emphasizing structural similarities and differences between the MTs. Dr. Klaassen addressed the expression and distribution of the MTs in brains with special reference to the cell-specific localization of MTs. Dr. Aschner provided data illustrating a potential role for MTs in attenuating the cytotoxicity caused by methylmercury (MeHg) in cultured neonatal astrocytes. Dr. Palmiter discussed the properties of MT-III and the increased sensitivity of MT-III knockout mice to kainate-induced seizures. Cerebral zinc metabolism, its relationship to MT homeostasis, and its pathogenic potential in Alzheimer's disease was addressed by Dr. Bush.
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