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2013 | 60 | 3 | 369-374
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The toxic Doppelganger: on the ionic and molecular mimicry of cadmium

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Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal which can cause numerous alterations in cell functioning. Exposure to cadmium leads to generation of reactive oxygen species, disorders in membrane structure and functioning, inhibition of respiration, disturbances in ion homeostasis, perturbations in cell division, and initiation of apoptosis and necrosis. This heavy metal is considered a carcinogen by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. At least some of the described toxic effects could result from the ability of cadmium to mimic other divalent ions and alert signal transduction networks. This review describes the role of cadmium mimicry in its uptake, reactive oxygen species generation, alterations in calmodulin, Wnt/β-catenin and estrogen signaling pathways, and modulation of neurotransmission. The last section is dedicated to the single known case of a favorable function performed by cadmium mimicry: marine diatoms, which live in zinc deficient conditions, utilize cadmium as a cofactor in carbonic anhydrase - so far the only described cadmium enzyme.
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