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Metallothionein expression and synthesis in the testis of the lizard Podarcis sicula under natural conditions and following estrogenic exposure

Mariailaria Verderame, Ermelinda Limatola, Rosaria Scudiero
  • Ermelinda Limatola
    University of Naples Federico II, Department of Biology, Italy
  • Rosaria Scudiero
    University of Naples Federico II, Department of Biology, Italy


Metallothionein (MT) is the main protein involved in the homeostasis of metallic micronutrients and in cellular defence against heavy metals and reactive oxygen species. Found in almost all vertebrate tissues, MT presence and localization in the testis has been controversial. In the present study, by using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analysis we assessed the localization of both MT transcript and protein in Podarcis sicula testes during two different phases of the reproductive cycle: the autumnal resumption and the spring-early summer mating period. In addition, with the same methodological approach, we verified the effect of estradiol-17ß and nonylphenol, a potent xenoestrogen, on MT expression and synthesis.  These results, the first collected in a non-mammalian oviparous vertebrate, demonstrated that the expression profile of MT mRNA and protein changes during the reproductive cycle. In the fall resumption, MT transcripts are absent in spermatogonia and present in all the other cells of tubules, including spermatozoa; vice versa, the MT protein is evident only in spermatozoa and somatic cells. In the mating period, both MT transcripts and proteins are present in spermatogonia, spermatocytes and spermatids, whereas in the spermatozoa only the proteins are detected, thus suggesting that the MTs translated in the earlier germinal stages are stored up to spermatozoa. Results also demonstrated that in lizard testis the expression of MT gene undergoes a cell-specific regulation after estrogenic exposure; the possible role and the mechanism by which this regulation occurs have been discussed.


metallothionein, spermatogenesis, reptiles, estrogen, nonylphenol, in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry

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Submitted: 2017-02-15 12:39:12
Published: 2017-05-03 11:55:08
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Copyright (c) 2017 Mariailaria Verderame, Ermelinda Limatola, Rosaria Scudiero

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