Zinc supplementation can reduce accumulation of cadmium in aged metallothionein transgenic mice

Kamil Pabis, Claudia Gundacker, Robertina Giacconi, Andrea Basso, Laura Costarelli, Francesco Piacenza, Sergio Strizzi, Mauro Provinciali, Marco Malavolta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epidemiologic studies suggest that exposure to Cd is related to a multitude of age-related diseases. There is evidence that Cd toxicity emerges from an interference with Zn metabolism as they compete for the same binding sites of ligands. The most responsive proteins to Cd exposure are the metal-binding proteins termed metallothioneins (MTs), which display a much greater affinity for Cd than for Zn. Most studies have considered the effect of Zn on the accumulation of exogenous Cd and tissue damage, whereas observational studies have addressed the association between Zn intake and Cd levels in body fluids. However, it has not been addressed whether supplemental Zn can lower Cd levels in organs of healthy aged animals without affecting Cu stores, a question more pertinent to human aging. We therefore aimed to investigate the effect of Zn supplementation on Cd levels in liver and kidney of aged MT transgenic mice (MT1-tg) overexpressing MT1 at levels more comparable to those observed in humans than non-transgenic mice. We found a >30% reduction of kidney and liver Cd levels in Zn supplemented MT1-tg mice compared to non-supplemented controls, independently of the dose of Zn, without a significant reduction of Cu. Our data support the idea of a causal and inverse relationship between Zn intake and Cd content in organs of aged MT1-tg mice as suggested by observational studies in humans. Our work provides the rationale for interventional studies to address the effects of Zn supplementation on Cd burden in elderly people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-860
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Aging
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Metallothionein
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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