Metallothioneins (MTs) have been widely considered for their potential use as specific biomarkers to reflect the existence of heavy metal pollution, because their induction has been observed to be obviously elevated after heavy metal exposure in a large number organism studied. However, relatively fewer efforts have been made in MT-related studies of prawn species, such as the white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei, a globally important aquaculture species. With the results from gel filtration chromatography, we demonstrate the existence of MTs or MT-like proteins in L.vannamei. We further studied the relationship between MT induction and metals accumulation after long-term exposure to the heavy metals Cd and Zn. From our results, it is very clear that the response of L. vannamei to Cd differs from that to Zn, and this should be considered when using MTs in field applications to monitor metals contamination.