Human metallothionein genes are clustered on chromosome 16.


The metallothioneins are a family of heavy-metal binding proteins of low molecular weight. They function in the regulation of trace metal metabolism and in the protection against toxic heavy metal ions. In man, the metallothioneins are encoded by at least 10-12 genes separated into two groups, MT-I and MT-II. To understand the genomic organization of these genes and their involvement in hereditary disorders of trace metal metabolism, we have determined their chromosomal location. Using human-mouse cell hybrids and hybridization probes derived from cloned and functional human MT1 and MT2 genes, we show that the functional human genes are clustered on human chromosome 16. Analysis of RNA from somatic cell hybrids indicated that hybrids that contained human chromosome 16 expressed both human MT1 and MT2 mRNA, and this expression is regulated by both heavy metal ions and glucocorticoid hormones.

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