A cDNA sequence of a putative midkine (MK) family protein was identified and characterised in the mollusc Patella caerulea. The midkine family consists of two members, midkine and pleiotrophin (PTN), and it is one of the recently discovered cytokines. Our results show that this putative midkine protein is up-regulated in specimens of P. caerulea exposed to sublethal cadmium concentrations (i.e. 0.5 and 1 mg l−1 Cd) over a 10-day exposure period. Semiquantitative RT-PCR and quantitative Real time RT-PCR estimations indicate elevated expression of midkine mRNA in exposed specimens compared to controls. Moreover, RT-PCR Real time values were higher in the viscera (here defined as the part of the soft tissue including digestive gland plus gills) than in the foot (i.e. foot plus head plus heart) of the limpets. At present, information on the functional signalling significance of the midkine family proteins suggests that the up-regulation of P. caerulea putative midkine family protein is a distress signal likely with informative value on health status of the organism and with potential prognostic capability.
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