Metallothionein-3 (MT-3) is an intracellular, low molecular weight protein mainly distributed in the central nervous system but also in various peripheral organs and several types of human neoplasms. However, details of MT-3 expression have not been examined in human adrenal cortex and its disorders. The mRNA levels of MT-3 were first evaluated by quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR) in adrenocortical aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA: 11) and cortisol-producing adenoma (CPA: 14). In addition, MT-3 immunohistochemistry was performed in non-pathological adrenal glands (NA: 19), idiopathic hyperaldosteronism (IHA: 10), APA (20), CPA (24), adjacent non-neoplastic adrenal glands of adenoma (AAG: 20), and adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC: 8). H295R cells were also treated with angiotensin-II or forskolin in a time-dependent manner, and the changes of MT-3 mRNA levels were evaluated by qPCR. Results of qPCR analysis demonstrated that MT-3 mRNA levels were significantly higher in APA than CPA (P = 0.0004). MT-3 immunoreactivity was detected in the zona glomerulosa of NA, IHA, and AAG, as well as in APA, CPA, and ACC. When treated with angiotensin-II and forskolin, MT-3 mRNA levels reached a peak by 12 h in H295R cells, with significantly higher levels compared to control non-treated cells (P < 0.01). The presence of MT-3 in the ZG of NA, IHA, and AAG, as well as APA may imply a role in the pathophysiology of aldosterone-producing tissues.
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