Exposure of cultured human proximal tubular cells to cadmium, mercury, zinc and bismuth: toxicity and metallothionein induction

V Rodilla, A T Miles, W Jenner, G M Hawksworth

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The kidney, in particular the proximal convoluted tubule, is a major target site for the toxic effects of various metals. However, little is known about the early effects of these metals after acute exposure in man. In the present study we have evaluated the toxicity of several inorganic metal compounds (CdCl2, HgCl2, ZnCl2, and Bi(NO3)(3)) and the induction of metallothionein by these compounds in cultured human proximal tubular (HPT) cells for up to 4 days. The results showed that bismuth was not toxic even at the highest dose (100 mu M) used, while zinc, cadmium and mercury exhibited varying degrees of toxicity, zinc being the least toxic and mercury the most potent. A significant degree of interindividual variation between the different isolates used in these experiments was also observed. All metals used in the present study induced MT, as revealed by immunocytochemistry. All metals showed maximal induction between 1 and 3 days after treatment. Although a certain amount of; constitutive MT was present in the cultures, the intensity of the staining varied with time in culture and between the different isolates studied. No correlation could be made between the intensity of the staining in control cultures (indicating total amount of constitutive MT) and the susceptibility of a given isolate to metal toxicity. Furthermore, no correlation could be : made between metal-induced MT and the susceptibility of a given isolate to that particular metal. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-83
Number of pages13
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • metallothionein
  • metals
  • kidney tubules proximal
  • cell culture
  • human
  • LLC-PK1

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