Metallothionein polymorphisms in pathological processes
Metallothioneins (MTs) are a class of metal-binding proteins characterized by a high cysteine content and low molecular weight. MTs play an important role in metal metabolism and protect cells against the toxic effects of radiation, alkylating agents and oxygen free radicals. The evidence that individual genetic characteristics of MTs play an important role in physiological and pathological processes associated with antioxidant defense and detoxification inspired targeted studies of genetic polymorphisms in a clinical context. In recent years, common MT polymorphisms were identified and associated with, particularly, western lifestyle diseases such as cancer, complications of atherosclerosis, and type 2 diabetes mellitus along with related complications. This review summarizes all evidence regarding MT polymorphisms of major human MTs (MT1, MT2, MT3 and MT4), their relation to pathological processes, and outlines specific applications of MTs as a set of genetic markers for certain pathologies.