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Elevated metallothionein expression in long-lived species mediates the influence of cadmium accumulation on aging
GeroScience  (IF7.713),  Pub Date : 2021-06-11, DOI: 10.1007/s11357-021-00393-3
Kamil Pabis, Ylenia Chiari, Claudia Sala, Elisabeth Straka, Robertina Giacconi, Mauro Provinciali, Xinna Li, Holly Brown-Borg, Karin Nowikovsky, Teresa G. Valencak, Claudia Gundacker, Paolo Garagnani, Marco Malavolta

Cadmium (Cd) accumulates with aging and is elevated in long-lived species. Metallothioneins (MTs), small cysteine-rich proteins involved in metal homeostasis and Cd detoxification, are known to be related to longevity. However, the relationship between Cd accumulation, the role of MTs, and aging is currently unclear. Specifically, we do not know if long-lived species evolved an efficient metal stress response by upregulating their MT levels to reduce the toxic effects of environmental pollutants, such as Cd, that accumulate over their longer life span. It is also unknown if the number of MT genes, their expression, or both protect the organisms from potentially damaging effects during aging. To address these questions, we reanalyzed several cross-species studies and obtained data on MT expression and Cd accumulation in long-lived mouse models. We confirmed a relationship between species maximum life span in captive mammals and their Cd content in liver and kidney. We found that although the number of MT genes does not affect longevity, gene expression and protein amount of specific MT paralogs are strongly related to life span in mammals. MT expression rather than gene number may influence the high Cd levels and longevity of some species. In support of this, we found that overexpression of MT-1 accelerated Cd accumulation in mice and that tissue Cd was higher in long-lived mouse strains with high MT expression. We conclude that long-lived species have evolved a more efficient stress response by upregulating the expression of MT genes in presence of Cd, which contributes to elevated tissue Cd levels.