Cd, Cu and Zn concentrations were measured in ambient water as well as in gills, liver and kidney tissues of two natural populations of brown trout (Salmo trutta) during a run-off episode in two rivers with different metal compositions due to mining pollution. Metallothionein (MT) was also measured in these tissues. The two rivers, Rugla (Cu contaminated) and Naustebekken (Cd and Zn contaminated), are located in two neighboring drainage basins separated by the topographic divide near the city of Røros in the County of Sør-Trøndelag, Norway. In Rugla, the Cu concentration increased from 15 µg/l at the low water level to 41 µg/l during the run-off episode. In Naustebekken, corresponding values for Cd were 90-170 ng/l and those for Zn were 49-91 µg/l. Gill concentrations of Cu and Cd/Zn MT in both populations of native trout clearly reflect the presence of these metals in the rivers during the run-off, in accordance with the hypothesis of protection caused by MT induction. When Rugla trout were transferred to Naustebekken and vice versa, both the amounts of MT itself and the Cu contents reflected the concentration of this metal in the new environment, indicating that MT induction also protects against acutely increased metal levels. The measured levels of MT in both native and transferred trout can account for all the Cd present in the tissues, but not for all of the Cu and Zn. The capacity of MT to regulate Cd and Cu in the trout populations in their natural habitat therefore seems clearly present. Our data also indicate that the MT I and II isoforms may bind metals selectively.