Metallothioneins (MTs) are the cysteine-rich proteins with low molecular weight, which play important roles in maintaining intracellular ion homeostasis, detoxification of heavy metal ions and protecting against intracellular oxidative damages. In this study a novel ethephon-induced metallothionein gene, designated as HbMT2, was isolated and characterized from Hevea brasiliensis. The HbMT2 cDNA contained a 237 bp open reading frame encoding 78 amino acids and the deduced protein showed high similarity to the type 2 MTs from other plant species. Expression analysis revealed more significant accumulation of HbMT2 transcripts in leaves and latex than in roots and barks. The transcription of HbMT2 in latex was strongly induced by ethephon and hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) stress. Overproduction of recombinant HbMT2 protein gave the Escherichia coli cells more tolerance on Cu(2+) and Zn(2+), and the recombinant HbMT2 could scavenge the reactive oxidant species (ROS) in vitro. All these results indicated that HbMT2 could respond to ethephon stimulation and H(2)O(2) stress as a ROS scavenger in H. brasiliensis. It is also suggested that HbMT2 function in improving the tolerance of rubber trees to heavy metal ions, and repressing the ethephon-induced senilism and tapping panel dryness (TPD) development by ROS scavenge system in H. brasiliensis.
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