Metallothionein functions as a radical scavenger protecting cells from the indirect effect of radiations. We investigated the effect of bismuth nitrate, an efficient inducer of metallothionein, on acute and late effects of radiation in mice. Metallothionein contents were examined in several organs after the administration of bismuth nitrate. The content in bone marrow increased 2-fold in the treated as compared to the control mice. This treatment protected irradiated mice from bone marrow death and increased the number of endogenous spleen colonies. The metallothionein content in the ileum did not change after treatment with bismuth nitrate. Mice were not protected by bismuth nitrate when exposed to 9 Gy of X-rays. This suggests that this agent does not protect from gastrointestinal death. The incidence of X-ray-induced thymic lymphomas was lowered by the administration of bismuth nitrate in mice exposed to four fractionated doses of 1.3 Gy of X-rays. These results indicate that bismuth nitrate effectively modified both acute and late effects of X-rays by inducing metallothionein in the target tissues.
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