The genome of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans contains two metallothionein genes, both involved in metal homeostasis and/or detoxification. Single metallothionein knockout mutants have been created and now, for the first time, a double mutant has been isolated. Life history studies in the presence or absence of cadmium showed that all metallothionein mutants are viable. Although cadmium did not influence longevity, a dose dependent reduction in total brood size and volumetric growth was observed in wild type animals, which was magnified in single knockouts and further exacerbated in the double knockout. However, the metallothionein deletion caused two effects that are independent of cadmium exposure, namely all knockout strains displayed a reduced total brood size and the deletion of both metallothionein loci caused a significant reduction in volumetric growth. In summary, metallothionein is undoubtedly an important player in cadmium detoxification, but evidently also an important factor in cadmium independent pathways. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.