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Emerging Roles of Metallothioneins in Beta Cell Pathophysiology: Beyond and Above Metal Homeostasis and Antioxidant Response


Metallothioneins (MTs) are low molecular weight, cysteine-rich, metal-binding proteins whose precise biological roles have not been fully characterized. Existing evidence implicated MTs in heavy metal detoxification, metal ion homeostasis and antioxidant defense. MTs were thus categorized as protective effectors that contribute to cellular homeostasis and survival. This view has, however, been challenged by emerging evidence in different medical fields revealing novel pathophysiological roles of MTs, including inflammatory bowel disease, neurodegenerative disorders, carcinogenesis and diabetes. In the present focused review, we discuss the evidence for the role of MTs in pancreatic beta-cell biology and insulin secretion. We highlight the pattern of specific isoforms of MT gene expression in rodents and human beta-cells. We then discuss the mechanisms involved in the regulation of MTs in islets under physiological and pathological conditions, particularly type 2 diabetes, and analyze the evidence revealing adaptive and negative roles of MTs in beta-cells and the potential mechanisms involved. Finally, we underscore the unsettled questions in the field and propose some future research directions.

Type Journal
ISBN 2079-7737 (Print) 2079-7737 (Linking)
Authors Bensellam, M.; Laybutt, D. R.; Jonas, J. C.
Responsible Garvan Author A/Prof Ross Laybutt
Publisher Name Biology (Basel)
Published Date 2021-02-28
Published Volume 10
Published Issue 3
Published Pages 176
Status Published in-print
DOI 10.3390/biology10030176
URL link to publisher's version