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Structural features specific to plant metallothioneins

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Review article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2011
Author Freisinger Eva,
Project A. Structures and properties of plant metallothioneins and related artificial proteins - B. Site specific modifications of larger nucleic acids
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Review article (peer-reviewed)

Journal J. Biol. Inorg. Chem.
Volume (Issue) 16(7)
Page(s) 1035 - 1045
Title of proceedings J. Biol. Inorg. Chem.
DOI 10.1007/s00775-011-0801-z


The metallothionein (MT) superfamily combines a large variety of small cysteine-rich proteins from nearly all phyla of life that have the ability to coordinate various transition metal ions, including ZnII, CdII, and CuI. The members of the plant MT family are characterized by great sequence diversity, requiring further subdivision into four subfamilies. Very peculiar and not well understood is the presence of rather long cysteine-free amino acid linkers between the cysteine-rich regions. In light of the distinct differences in sequence to MTs from other families, it seems obvious to assume that these differences will also be manifested on the structural level. This was already impressively demonstrated with the elucidation of the three-dimensional structure of the wheat Ec-1 MT, which revealed two metal cluster arrangements previously unprecedented for any MT. However, as this structure is so far the only one available for the plant MT family, other sources of information are in high demand. In this review the focus is thus set on any structural features known, deduced, or assumed for the plant MT proteins. This includes the determination of secondary structural elements by circular dichroism, IR, and Raman spectroscopy, the analysis of the influence of the long linker regions, and the evaluation of the spatial arrangement of the sequence separated cysteine-rich regions with the aid of, e.g., limited proteolytic digestion. In addition, special attention is paid to the contents of divalent metal ions as the metal ion to cysteine ratios are important for predicting and understanding possible metal–thiolate cluster structures.