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Structures and properties of plant metallothioneins

English title Structures and properties of plant metallothioneins
Applicant Freisinger Eva
Number 113728
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Institut für Chemie Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Inorganic Chemistry
Start/End 01.11.2006 - 31.10.2008
Approved amount 213'398.00
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Keywords (13)

bioinorganic chemistry; plant metallothionein; metal-thiolate clusters; X-ray crystallography; NMR; ESR; Metallothioneins; Plants; Zinc; Cadmium; Spectroscopy; Crystallography; Metalloproteins

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Metals are essential for life but depending on the concentration and sort of metal ion they can also exhibit a considerable amount of toxicity. Thus all living organisms have evolved some kind of mechanisms to control the uptake, transport and accumulation of such metal ions. Metallothioneins(MTs) are part of this machinery. Generally, MTs are a family of small proteins with an outstandingly high content of the amino acid cysteine and metal ions with the electronic configuration d10. In a way, MTs might be regarded as inorganic metal-thiolate clusters embedded in a biological matrix and are thus one of the classical examples out of the research field of Bioinorganic Chemistry. MTs are thought to function in storage, transport and regulation of essential metal ions, most notably Zn2+ andCu+, as well as in the detoxification of both, non-essential heavy metalions such as Cd2+ or Hg2+ and an excess of the afore mentioned essential metal ions. Additionally, participation in gene regulation is discussed.
MTs might also have a protective role in a variety of stress conditions, notably the scavenging of reactive oxygen species. MTs occur throughout the animal kingdom (mostly in liver, kidney, pancreas, and intestines), in higher plants, eukaryotic microorganisms, and in some prokaryotes. The largest amount of three-dimensional structural information is known for the mammalian isoforms, mostly from NMR studies on single protein domains.
Only two X-ray structures have been published so far. Information about plants MTs is predominantly limited to identification of the genes, and only isolated studies concerning the encoded proteins have been conducted.To date, no three-dimensional structural data is available.
The present research project focuses on the determination of the structures and properties of plant MTs, a key factor in understanding their function. With this new knowledge it might be also possible to optimize metal ion binding properties or even metal ion specificity of these proteins. Plants, over-expressing such specialized MTs, might be able to grow in polluted areas or even might be used to specifically remove heavy metal ions from the environment (phytoremidation), e.g. from mining areas and land used by heavy metal releasing manufacturing industry.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


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153666 Structures, folding, and metallation pathways of metallothioneins from plants and fungi 01.06.2014 Project funding
175623 Cluster diversity in plant and fungi metallothioneins - Properties and structures as a gate to functions 01.10.2017 Project funding
119106 A. Structures and properties of plant metallothioneins and related artificial proteins - B. Site specific modifications of larger nucleic acids 01.06.2008 SNSF Professorships
105269 Structure investigation of metal clusters in plant metallothioneins with X-ray crystallography and spectroscopic methods 01.11.2004 Project funding