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A previous study (Oliver, J.R., Mara, T.W., Cherian, M.G. 2005. Impaired hepatic regeneration in metallothionein-I/II knockout mice after partial hepatectomy. Exp. Biol. Med. 230, 61-67) has shown an impairment of liver regeneration following partial hepatectomy (PH) in metallothionein (MT)-I and MT-II gene knockout (MT-null) mice, thus suggesting a requirement for MT in cellular growth. The present study was undertaken to investigate whether MT may play a similar role in hepatic injury and regeneration after acute treatment with thioacetamide (TAA). Hepatotoxicity of TAA is caused by the generation of oxidative stress. TAA was injected ip to both wild-type (WT) and MT-null mice. Mice were killed at 6, 12, 24, 48, 60, and 72 h after injection of TAA (125 mg/kg) or 48 h after injection of saline (vehicle control), and different parameters of hepatic injury were measured. The levels of hepatic lipid peroxidation were increased at 12 h in both types of mice; however, lipid peroxidation was significantly less in WT mice than MT-null mice at 48 h after injection of TAA. Analysis of hepatic glutathione (GSH) levels after TAA injection showed depletion of GSH at 12 h in WT mice and at 6 h in MT-null mice; however, significantly more GSH was depleted early (6-24 h) in MT-null mice than WT mice. An increase in hepatic iron (Fe) levels was observed in both types of mice after injection of TAA, but Fe levels were significantly higher in MT-null mice than WT mice at 6-60 h. The levels of hepatic copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) were significantly higher in WT mice than MT-null mice at 6-60 h for Cu, and at 24 h and 60 h for Zn, respectively. Histopathological examination showed hemorrhagic necrosis in the liver of both types of mice at 12-72 h, with hepatic injury being more prominent in MT-null mice than WT mice. The hepatic MT levels were increased in WT mice after injection of TAA, and were highest at 24-72 h. Immunohistochemical staining for MT in WT mice indicated the presence of MT in both nucleus and cytoplasm of hepatocytes at 24-72 h after TAA injection. Cell proliferation, as assessed by immunohistochemical staining for proliferating cell nuclear antigen, was detected mainly in the livers of WT mice at 48-72 h after TAA treatment. Hepatic proliferation index in MT-null mice was very low as compared to WT mice during liver regeneration after injection of TAA. These results show that the liver cells of MT-null mice with no functional MT are unable to regenerate after TAA-induced hepatic injury, demonstrating an important role for MT in cellular regeneration.