Metallothionein (MT) is a low molecular weight metal-binding protein induced by endogenous and exogenous
stimuli such as cytokines and heavy metals. In 1993 and 1994, two research groups (Choo et al. and Palmiter et al., respectively)
produced MT-I/II double-knockout mice (MT-I/II null mice) with null mutations of the MT-I and MT-II genes.
Subsequently, MT-I/II null mice have been used to clarify the biological function, physiological role, and pathophysiological
relevance of MT by many research groups. Recent studies using MT-I/II null mice to investigate the role of MT
in metal toxicity and distribution, oxidative stress, and some disease were reviewed. In addition, several research groups
including our laboratory have reported that MT-I/II null mice are highly susceptible to several carcinogenesis caused by
7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene, X-ray, benzo[a]pyrene, N-butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl) nitrosamine, lead, and cisplatin.
These results suggest that MT is an important protective factor against not only metal toxicity and oxidative stress but also
chemical and radiation carcinogenesis. In this review, we present the findings of MT-I/II null mice with regard to the protective
role of MT in carcinogenesis and mutagenesis caused by chemical agents and X-ray.