Metallothionein (I+II) confers, via c-myc, immune plasticity in oldest mice: Model of partial hepatectomy/liver regeneration

Catia Cipriano, Robertina Giacconi, Mario Muzzioli, Nazzarena Gasparini, Fiorenza Orlando, Attilio Corradi, Enrico Cabassi, Eugenio Mocchegiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Because of its similarity to ageing in impaired immune efficiency 48 h after surgical procedures on young partially hepatectomised mice, partial hepatectomy/liver regeneration (pHx) provides a good model for the study of inflammation in ageing. In old age, high metallothionein (I+II) (MT) sequesters a substantial number of intracellular zinc ions consequently leading to low zinc ion bioavailability for an adequate immune response. Corticosterone and IL-6 affect MTmRNA induction in inflammation and after pHx against oxidative damage. The aim of this study was to investigate the role played by MT in conferring immune plasticity in ageing and in very old age using the pHx model. 48 h after their partial hepatectomy, the crude zinc balance was negative in young, old and very old mice coupled with increased MT, corticosterone, sIL-6R and IL-6. Concomitantly, Natural Killer (NK) cell activity and IL-2 production decreased. Complete restoration of the nutritional-endocrine-immune parameters occurred 15 days from the surgical procedures in young and very old mice, but not in old or transgenic mice overexpressing MT. A significant positive or inverse correlation among nutritional-endocrine-immune parameters exists in young and very old mice, but not in old mice during liver regeneration. Since MT also affects c-myc, the gene expression of c-myc declines from 48 h to days 7 and 15 after pHx in young and very old mice, but remains constantly high in old pHx mice for the same days. This circumstance leads to the appearance of tumours in the long run in old pHx mice and survival times that are shorter than old sham controls. Because complete remodelling also occurs in IL-6 and in sIL-6R in very old mice during liver regeneration, the pre-existing inflammation is not detrimental in very old age. As such, very old mice are still responsive to large inflammation, such as pHx, thanks to correct MT homeostasis. Correct MT homeostasis, via c-myc, is therefore pivotal in both suitable liver regeneration and in conferring immune plasticity with subsequent successful ageing. High MT plays an extremely harmful role in ageing: on one hand it lowers zinc ion bioavailability levels required for immune efficiency and on the other hand it increases c-myc expression. The combination of immune depression and enhanced c-myc, via high MT, may trigger the appearance of age-related degenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-886
Number of pages10
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Issue number8-9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003


  • Cancer
  • IL-2
  • IL-6
  • NK cell activity
  • sIL-6R
  • Successful ageing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Biochemistry
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Metallothionein (I+II) confers, via c-myc, immune plasticity in oldest mice: Model of partial hepatectomy/liver regeneration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this