Polymorphism of cadmium-induced mussel metallothioneins
Metallothioneins are ubiquitous sulphur-rich heavy metal binding proteins whose biosynthesis is induced in response to a variety of agents, including heavy metals. A number of isoforms of metallothionein are known to be induced by heavy metals in the common mussel Mytilus edulis, and recently interest has centred on the nature of these proteins and their possible utility as pollution indicator agents. Cadmium-induced metallotheioneins were isolated from mussels by procedures which included gel permeation and anion-exchange chromatography. They were shown to comprise two molecular mass classes of 10 and 20KDa. The 10kDa class was resolved by anion-exchange into four components designated 10-I, 10-II, 1--III and 10-IV. The 20kDa class was similarly resolved into three components designated 20-I, 20-II and 20-III. The amino acid sequences of each of the components in both of the classes were determined. This involved digestion with a variety of proteinases and separation of the resulting peptides. The abundance of crysteines in these mussel metallotheioneins necessitated their derivatisation with methyl-p-nitrobenzenesulphonate to generate the S-methyl derivative of cysteine which has been found to be suitable for peptide mapping by HPLC and sequence analysis by automated methods. The components of the 20kDa class were shown to possess linked peptides consisting of 71 amino acids, which were distinct from the 72 amino acid peptides of the 10kDa class. It is suggested that the two monomers in the 20kDa proteins are linked via S-Cd-S bonding, i.e. a bridging cadmium ion. The various components within both classes exhibited homology, particularly with regard to the location of the cysteine residues, to metallothioneins from other species, including mammals. On the basis of this homology these proteins were classified as class I metallothioneins.