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Induction by mercury compounds of metallothioneins in mouse tissues: inorganic mercury accumulation is not a dominant factor for metallothionein induction in the liver

Akira Yasutake, Masaaki Nakamura
Journal of Toxicological Sciences 2011, 36 (3): 365-72
Among the naturally occurring three mercury species, metallic mercury (Hg(0)), inorganic mercury (Hg(II)) and methylmercury (MeHg), Hg(II) is well documented to induce metallothionein (MT) in tissues of injected animals. Although Hg(0) and MeHg are considered to be inert in terms of directly inducing MT, MT can be induced by them after in vivo conversion to Hg(II) in an animal body. In the present study we examined accumulations of inorganic mercury and MT inductions in mouse tissues (brain, liver and kidney) up to 72 hr after treatment by one of three mercury compounds of sub-lethal doses. Exposure to mercury compounds caused significant mercury accumulations in mouse tissues examined, except for the Hg(II)-treated mouse brain. Although MeHg caused the highest total mercury accumulation in all tissues among mercury compounds, the rates of inorganic mercury were less than 10% through the experimental period. MT inductions that depended on the inorganic mercury accumulation were observed in kidney and brain. However, MT induction in the liver could not be accounted for by the inorganic mercury accumulation, but by plasma IL6 levels, marked elevation of which was observed in Hg(II) or MeHg-treated mouse. The present study demonstrated that MT was induced in mouse tissues after each of three mercury compounds, Hg(0), Hg(II) and MeHg, but the induction processes were different among tissues. The induction would occur directly through accumulation of inorganic mercury in brain and kidney, whereas the hepatic MT might be induced secondarily through mercury-induced elevation in the plasma cytokines, rather than through mercury accumulation in the tissue.


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