Metallothionein (MT) is a group of proteins with low molecular masses and high cysteine contents, and is classified into different types, which in general contains two domains (domain 1 and domain 2) with typical amino acid sequences (Rauser 1999). In this report two full-length cDNAs (Y459 and G14) encoding MT-like proteins were isolated from leaves of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). Their open reading frames contained 249 and 195 nucleotides (82 and 64 amino acids) for Y459 and G14, respectively, and exhibited a relatively low amino acid sequence similarity (ca. 25.8%). Gene structure studies showed that Y459 had the conserved domain 1 region of type 2 MT; however, the domain 2 region was not conserved and contained additional amino acids between the CxC and CxC spacing. G14 had conserved domains 1 and 2 of type 4 MT except that the last CxC of domain 2 was changed to RxC. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR showed that Y459 was expressed in significant quantity in roots and stems, but was much less in green leaves. During natural and induced (with dark and ethephon, an ethylene-releasing compound, treatments) leaf senescence, Y459 gene expression was significantly enhanced. In contrast, relatively constant gene expression levels were found for G14 in all tissues or treatments analyzed. In conclusion, the two MT-like protein genes of sweet potato display differential gene structures and gene expression patterns, which may be associated with the diverse roles and functions they play in plant physiology in order to cope with particular developmental and environmental cues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas