A novel copper-binding metallothionein (MT) has been purified from mantle tissue of the terrestrial snail Helix pomatia using gel-permeation chromatography, ion-exchange chromatography and reverse-phase HPLC. Copper was removed from the thionein by addition of ammonium tetrathiomolybdate. The resulting apothionein (molecular mass 6247 Da) was S-methylated and digested with trypsin, endoproteinase Arg-C and endoproteinase Lys-C. Amino acid sequences of the resulting peptides were determined by collision-induced dissociation tandem MS. The protein is acetylated at its N-terminus, and consists of 64 amino acids, 18 of which are cysteine residues. A comparison with the cadmium-binding MT isolated from the midgut gland of the same species shows an identical arrangement of the cysteines, but an unexpectedly high variability in the other amino acids. The two MT isoforms differ in total length and at 26 positions of their peptide chains. We suggest that the copper-binding MT isoform from the mantle of H. pomatia is responsible for regulatory functions in favour of copper, probably in connection with the metabolism of the copper-bearing protein, haemocyanin.

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