Sulfur mustard induces expression of metallothionein-1A in human airway epithelial cells

Mohammad Reza Nourani, Majid Ebrahimi, Mehryar Habibi Roudkenar, Ensieh Vahedi, Mostafa Ghanei, Abbas Ali Imani Fooladi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Sulfur mustard can cause several long-term complications in the organs of individuals exposed to this toxic gas, and among these, pulmonary sequelae are the most important. More than 25 years after the Iran-Iraq war, thousands of Iranians are suffering from the chronic respiratory complications of sulfur mustard. Currently, based on several clinical findings, bronchiolitis obliterans is confirmed as the major diagnosis in these patients. Numerous studies have revealed that this disorder is strongly associated with oxidative stress due to excessive production of harmful reactive substances and decreased levels of endogenous antioxidants. Metallothioneins (MTs) are a group of low molecular weight sulfhydryl-rich intra-cellular proteins, and several isoforms have been identified in humans. MT-1A is an inducible and important MT isoform, which is transcriptionally activated by a variety of stress stimuli, such as free radicals. Methods: MT-1 mRNA expression and protein levels in endobronchial biopsy samples from 24 sulfur mustard-exposed patients and 15 unexposed control cases were evaluated by semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, and immunohistochemistry. Results: mRNA-MT-1A expression levels in sulfur mustard-exposed patients were upregulated compared with normal samples. Protein expression was also markedly higher in controls than in sulfur mustard-exposed patients. Conclusion: Upregulation of MT-1A mRNA in patients who have been exposed to sulfur mustard seems to be due to oxidative stress, which is induced in an attempt to ameliorate this harmful situation by reestablishment of homeostasis, but depletion of its protein might be due to secondary consequences of sulfur mustard toxicity, which are as yet not understood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-419
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of General Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Airway
  • Epithelial cells
  • Metallothionein-1A
  • Sulfur mustard

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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