Metallothioneins (MTs) are ubiquitous cysteine-rich proteins present in plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. In plants, MTs are suggested to be involved in metal tolerance or homeostasis, as they are able to bind metal ions through the thiol groups of their cysteine residues. Recent reports show that MTs are also involved in the scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The interplay between these roles is not entirely clear. Plants have many MT isoforms with overlapping expression patterns, and no specific role for any of them has been assigned. This review is focused on recent findings on plant MTs. © 2010 German Botanical Society and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands.