Zinc redistribution between plasma and liver has been examined in mice injected with Ehrlich-ascites-tumour cells. Within 24 h of injection plasma Zn levels decrease and Zn appears in newly synthesized liver metallothionein. This response is dependent upon the number of tumour cells injected into the host. Uptake of Zn into liver and its specific accumulation in a Zn-binding protein, identified as metallothionein, continues for a number of days and reaches a plateau as tumour growth ceases. Over this time period, plasma copper rises. This redistribution also occurs in mice pretreated with cadmium in their drinking water for 1 month at levels of 20, 50, and 100 micrograms/ml. However, in each case there is a lag of 3 days before Zn increases in the livers of these animals which already contain substantial amounts of Cd/Zn-metallothionein. When Ehrlich cells are injected into mice previously placed on a Zn-deficient diet for several days, plasma Zn is already low and no net uptake of Zn into liver metallothionein is apparent. Finally, it is shown that ascites fluid can itself stimulate a transient shift of host of Zn into liver. Heat-inactivated fluid loses this property. It is suggested that, in the peritoneum, tumour cells initiate a stress response mediated by an ascites-fluid factor.

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