Author(s): Kameo S, Nakai K, Kurokawa N, Kanehisa T, Naganuma A,
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Abstract Mercury vapor is effectively absorbed via inhalation and easily passes through the blood-brain barrier; therefore, mercury poisoning with primarily central nervous system symptoms occurs. Metallothionein (MT) is a cysteine-rich metal-binding protein and plays a protective role in heavy-metal poisoning and it is associated with the metabolism of trace elements. Two MT isoforms, MT-I and MT-II, are expressed coordinately in all mammalian tissues, whereas MT-III is a brain-specific member of the MT family. MT-III binds zinc and copper physiologically and is seemed to have important neurophysiological and neuromodulatory functions. The MT functions and metal components of MTs in the brain after mercury vapor exposure are of much interest; however, until now they have not been fully examined. In this study, the influences of the lack of MT-I and MT-II on mercury accumulation in the brain and the changes of zinc and copper concentrations and metal components of MTs were examined after mercury vapor exposure by using MT-I, II null mice and 129/Sv (wild-type) mice as experimental animals. MT-I, II null mice and wild-type mice were exposed to mercury vapor or an air stream for 2 h and were killed 24 h later. The brain was dissected into the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum, and the hippocampus. The concentrations of mercury in each brain section were determined by cold vapor atomic absorption spectrometry. The concentrations of mercury, copper, and zinc in each brain section were determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The mercury accumulated in brains after mercury vapor exposure for MT-I, II null mice and wild-type mice. The mercury levels of MT-I, II null mice in each brain section were significantly higher than those of wild-type mice after mercury vapor exposure. A significant change of zinc concentrations with the following mercury vapor exposure for MT-I, II null mice was observed only in the cerebellum analyzed by two-way analysis of variance. As for zinc, the copper concentrations only changed significantly in the cerebellum. Metal components of metal-binding proteins of soluble fractions in the brain sections were analyzed by size-exclusion high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) connected with ICP-MS. From the results of HPLC/ICP-MS analyses, it was concluded that the mercury components of MT-III and high molecular weight metal-binding proteins in the cerebellum of MT-I, II null mice were much higher than those of wild-type mice. It was suggested that MT-III is associated with the storage of mercury in conditions lacking MT-I, and MT-II. It was also suggested that the physiological role of MT-III and some kind of high molecular weight proteins might be impaired by exposure to mercury vapor and lack of MT-I and MT-II.
This article was published in Anal Bioanal Chem
and referenced in Journal of Analytical & Bioanalytical Techniques