The metallothionein (MT) gene family consists of several members (MT-I-IV) that are tightly regulated during development. MT-I and MT-II are expressed in many tissues, including the brain, whereas MT-III is expressed mainly in the central nervous system. However, the physiological roles of these isoforms in the brain and their regulation are poorly characterized. In this report, we have studied the putative role of IL-6 in the regulation of brain MT. The present results demonstrated that transgenic mice expressing IL-6, under the regulatory control of the glial fibrillary acidic protein gene promoter (GFAP-IL6 mice), and which develop chronic progressive neurodegenerative disease, show significantly increased MT-I + II protein levels in specific brain areas. Thus, the MT-I + II levels of 1-and 3-month-old GFAP-IL6 mice (G16 and/or G36 lines) were not altered in hippocampus but they were elevated in the cerebellum (highest induction), medulla plus pens, hypothalamus and remaining brain (lowest induction). The effect of the transgenic expression of IL-6, was more dramatic for MT-I + II protein than for MT-I mRNA levels, with the latter only marginally elevated in the G16 line at 3 months but not at 6 months of age where there was a tendency to decreased levels. Brain MT-I mRNA levels also tended to decrease in the higher expressor G36 line in 3-month-old mice despite the strongly elevated MT-I + II protein levels at this age. Therefore, in addition to increasing MT gene transcription, these results suggest a post-transcriptional effect of IL-6, or of a IL-6-dependent factor, in this chronic situation. The up-regulated brain MT-I ± II protein levels in the GFAP-IL6 mice was comparable to the expression of the acute-phase response gene EB22/5, suggesting that these MT isoforms could be considered acute-phase response proteins in the brain. Brain MT-III mRNA levels followed a somewhat similar pattern that those of MT-I mRNA but the decreasing effect of IL-6 transgene production with age was more dramatic for the former, suggesting differential regulation of these MT isoforms by IL-6. The results indicate that these transgenic mice might be a valuable tool for further examining the role of the MT isoforms in brain physiology and pathobiology.
|Journal||Molecular Brain Research|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Aug 1997|
- Growth inhibitory factor