Heavy Metal-Induced Metallothionein Expression is Regulated by Specific Protein Phosphatase 2A Complexes [Gene Regulation]

June 24th, 2014 by Chen, L., Ma, L., Bai, Q., Zhu, X., Zhang, J., Wei, Q., Li, D., Gao, C., Li, J., Zhengbao, Z., Liu, C., He, Z., Zeng, X., Zhang, A., Qu, W., Zhuang, Z., Chen, W., Xiao, Y.

Induction of metallothionein (MT) expression is involved in metal homeostasis and detoxification. To identify the key pathways that regulate metal-induced cytotoxicity, we investigate how phosphorylated metal-responsive transcription factor-1 (MTF-1) contributed to induction of MT expression. Immortal human embryonic kidney cells (HEK cells) were treated with seven kinds of metals including cadmium chloride (CdCl2), zinc sulphate (ZnSO4), copper sulphate (CuSO4), lead acetate (PbAc), nickel sulphate (NiSO4), sodium arsenite (NaAsO2), and potassium bichromate (K2Cr2O7). The MT expression was induced in a dose-response and time-dependent manner upon various metal treatments. A cycle of phosphorylation and dephosphorylation was required for translocation of MTF-1 from cytoplasm to nucleus, leading to the up-regulation of MTs expression. Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) participated in regulating MT expression through dephosphorylation of MTF-1. A loss-of-function screen revealed that the specific PP2A complexes containing PR110 were involved in metal-induced MT expression. Suppression of PP2A PR110 in HEK cells resulted in the persistent MTF-1 phosphorylation and the disturbance of MTF-1 nuclear translocation, which was concomitant with a significant decrease of MT expression and enhanced cytotoxicity in HEK cells. Notably, MTF-1 was found in complex with specific PP2A complexes containing the PR110 subunit upon metal exposure. Furthermore, we identify that the dephosphorylation of MTF-1 at residue Thr254 (T254) is directly regulated by PP2A PR110 complexes and responsible for MTF-1 activation. Taken together, these findings delineate a novel pathway that determines cytotoxicity in response to metal treatments and provide new insight into the role of PP2A in cellular stress response.