MTT2, a copper-inducible metallothionein gene from Tetrahymena thermophila

F. Boldrin, G. Santovito, A. Formigari, Y. Bisharyan, D. Cassidy-Hanley, Tim Clark, E. Piccinni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metallothioneins (MTs) are ubiquitous, cysteine-rich, metal-binding proteins whose transcriptional activation is induced by a variety of stimuli, in particular heavy metals such as cadmium, copper and zinc. Here we describe the sequence and organization of a novel copper-inducible metallothionein gene (MTT2) from Tetrahymena thermophila. Based on its deduced sequence, the gene encodes a protein 108 amino acids, containing 29 cysteine residues (30%) arranged in motifs characteristic of vertebrate and invertebrate MTs. We demonstrate that the 5'-region of the MTT2 gene can act as an efficient promoter to drive the expression of heterologous genes in the Tetrahymena system. In the latter case, a gene for a candidate vaccine antigen against Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a ubiquitous parasite of freshwater fish, was expressed at high levels in transformed T. thermophila cell lines. Moreover, the protein was properly folded and targeted to the plasma membrane in its correct three-dimensional conformation. This new copper-inducible MT promoter may be an attractive alternative to the cadmium-inducible MTT1 promoter for driving ectopic gene expression in Tetrahymena and could have a great impact on biotechnological perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-40
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part C Toxicology & Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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