To characterize avian MTs, MT cDNAs were cloned from liver of cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). Expression profiles of MT isoforms and relationships between metal accumulation and MT mRNA expression in tissues were also investigated. We succeeded in cDNA cloning of MT1/2 from cormorant and MT1 in mallard. DNA sequence of chicken MT1 was obtained from chicken (Gallus gallus) genomic database. Considering previous reports on avian MTs, birds possess at least two distinct MT isoforms. Comparison of genomic synteny among vertebrates and phylogenetic analysis of MT amino acid sequences revealed that avian MT1/2 are evolutionarily close to mammalian MT3. Messenger RNAs of both MT isoforms were detected in all the tissues/organs in cormorant and mallard. Liver was the primary organ for cormorant MT1/2, and mallard MT2, whereas MT1 was dominant in mallard heart. Interspecies comparison of tissue distribution of MT mRNA expression between cormorant and mallard indicated that MT2 profile was similar, but MT1 was not. Significant positive correlations of mRNA expression levels between MT1 and MT2 were observed in the liver and kidney of cormorants, whereas no correlation was found in mallards. Expression levels of cormorant MT1/2 showed significant positive correlations with hepatic Cu and Zn concentrations, suggesting that both MT isoforms were induced by Cu and Zn in livers. Cormorant MT2 expression level exhibited a significant positive correlation with hepatic Ag, and a negative correlation with Rb, indicating that Ag and Rb concentrations depend on the expression of MT2 by Cu and Zn. In mallard, MT1 had no correlation with any metal concentration, and MT2 expression was positively correlated only with Cu, even though hepatic Cu and Zn concentrations in mallard were much higher than in cormorant. This may indicate that cormorant is a more susceptible species than mallard in terms of MT induction. These findings suggest tissue-, species-, and MT isoform-specific responses to metal stresses in these aquatic birds. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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