The growing number of studies on metallothioneins (MTs), cysteine-rich metal-binding proteins, have been disclosing new functions of these proteins. Thanks to their inducibility, they were considered to play a pivotal role in regulating trace metals homeostasis and in detoxification from heavy metals; nowadays, it is known that they are involved in various physiological and pathological processes, such as regulation of apoptosis, elimination of free radicals, and protection of nucleic acids against toxic insults. MT induction has been demonstrated following stress factors other than heavy metals, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, insecticides, and herbicides. However, retrieved data are often controversial: in some cases, xenobiotics elicit MT expression and synthesis; under different conditions, they lead to a decrease in cellular MT content. This review describes the MT response to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) contamination in mammalian tissues. In particular, attention focuses on changes in MT expression, synthesis, and localization in rat liver, kidneys, and testes following oral administration of dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), the main metabolite of DDT, under normal dietary conditions or in combination with a high fat diet potentially able to increase the cellular uptake of this lipophilic pesticide. The potential connection between MT expression and synthesis, lipophilic substances and trace metals availability is also discussed.
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