2009 Volume 85 Issue 10 Pages 500-507
It is well known that exposure to environmental cadmium causes itai-itai (ouch-ouch) disease. However, the exact mechanism underlying this bone disease remains unresolved. By focusing on the calcification mechanism, we examined developing tooth enamel in rats exposed to cadmium to test the hypothesis that cadmium exposure may cause defects in crystal formation. Electron microscopy revealed the presence of perforated crystals in developing tooth enamel, indicating that the process of crystal nucleation may have been interrupted by cadmium exposure. Furthermore, biochemical analyses revealed that the catalytic activity of carbonic anhydrase in the immature enamel matrix declined remarkably despite the fact that quantitative reduction of this enzyme was insignificant, suggesting that the decline of catalytic activity may have resulted from the replacement of zinc with cadmium ions. Therefore, we concluded that the poor catalytic activity of cadmium-binding carbonic anhydrase might hinder the nucleation process, leading to an impairment in mineralization that causes itai-itai disease.
(Communicated by Tatsuo SUDA, M.J.A.)