Metallothioneins’ (MTs) biological function has been a matter of debate since their discovery. The importance to categorize these cysteine-rich proteins with high coordinating capacity into a specific group led to numerous classification proposals. We proposed a classification based on their metal-binding abilities, gradually sorting them from those with high selectivity towards Zn/Cd to those that are Cu-specific. However, the study of the NpeMT1 and NpeMT2isoforms of Nerita peloronta, has put a new perspective on this classification. N. peloronta has been chosen as a representative mollusk to elucidate the metal-binding abilities of Neritimorpha MTs, an order without any MTs characterized recently. Both isoforms have been recombinantly synthesized in cultures supplemented with ZnII, CdII, or CuII, and the purified metal–MT complexes have been thoroughly characterized by spectroscopic and spectrometric methods, leading to results that confirmed that Neritimorpha share Cd-selective MTs with Caenogastropoda and Heterobranchia, solving a so far unresolved question. NpeMTs show high coordinating preferences towards divalent metal ions, although one of them (NpeMT1) shares features with the so-called genuine Zn-thioneins, while the other (NpeMT2) exhibits a higher preference for Cd. The dissimilarities between the two isoforms let a window open to a new proposal of chemical MT classification.
- Biochemical classification