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Melatonin modulates the cadmium-induced expression of MT-2 and MT-1 metallothioneins in three lines of human tumor cells (MCF-7, MDA-MB-231 and HeLa)

Cadmium (Cd) is a human carcinogen present in tobacco smoke and contaminated industrial soils. Metallothioneins (MTs) are intracellular proteins involved in protecting against Cd. The toxic effects of Cd can be modified by compounds able to modulate MTs synthesis. Melatonin has oncostatic properties and has also been shown to counteract the toxic effects of Cd. In this study we examine the possible role of melatonin in Cd-induced expression of several MT isoforms (MT-2A, MT-1X, MT-1F and MT-1E) in three human tumor cell lines (MCF-7, MDA-MB-231 and HeLa). We found that, in all cell types, melatonin increases Cd-induced expression of MT-2A, which is considered to protect against Cd toxicity. As regards MT-1 subtypes, which have been related with cell invasiveness and high histological grade tumors, melatonin caused Cd-induced expression in both breast cancer cell lines to decrease. These effects point towards melatonin's possible role as a preventive agent for carcinogenesis dependent on Cd contamination.