Expression of different metallothionein messenger ribonucleic acids in motor cortex, spinal cord and liver from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

H. G. Blaauwgeers, M. Anwar Chand, F. M. van den Berg, J. M. Vianney de Jong, D. Troost

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In earlier studies of sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease of unknown etiology, the amount of metallothioneins (MTs), a group of small (6-7 kDa) metal-binding proteins, appeared higher in liver, kidney and spinal cord from patients than from non-neurologic controls. Immunohistochemically, the expression of MT in the central nervous system appeared limited to glia. Since the highly conserved MTs isotypes share antigenic epitopes, they could not be distinguished by immunological methods. It thus proved necessary to estimate the expression of each individual MT messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) by performing reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-mediated analysis of tissue samples. Tissues selected included liver, motor cortex and cervical cord at C6; MT mRNAs analyzed included MT1A, 1B, 1E, 1F, 1G, 2A, and 3. Also, special care was taken to avoid interference by amplification of the 6 MT pseudogenes. Except of MT3, already known as brain-specific, and MT1B which was not expressed in any tissue, mRNA levels of the other MT genes tended to be higher in ALS than in control liver samples, but the differences did not attain statistical significance. In the nervous system, the diverse MT genes were expressed over a greater range in ALS than in controls, but exhibited no change in a consistent direction. At the motor cortex, changes seemed to be less pronounced than at C6. MT3 was expressed in the motor cortex and the cord. The results provide no evidence for either the induction of a specific MT repertoire, or for the inability of glia to express any MT gene in ALS. Because the semi-quantitative RT-PCR technique does not permit detailed comparisons between the subtypes of MT expressed in the various tissues, the question whether a single inductor may be held responsible for the elevation of MT in the ALS liver and nervous system remains open. In conclusion, ALS tissue remains capable of expressing all the major MT genes. MT, present in protoplasmic glia, arises locally and is not secondary to increases of hepatic or renal MT. Because MT3 is also expressed by the normal and ALS spinal cord, it is a central nervous system-specific and not only a brain-specific protein. Thus, the excess of MT in ALS liver seems to be an effect of slower catabolism rather than faster synthesis of protein
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-44
JournalJournal of the neurological sciences
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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