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Sexual differences in the excretion of organic and inorganic mercury by methyl mercury-treated rats

D J Thomas, H L Fisher, M R Sumler, P Mushak, L L Hall
Environmental Research 1987, 43 (1): 203-16
Adult male and female Long Evans rats received 1 mumole of methyl (203Hg) mercuric chloride per kilogram sc. Whole-body retention of mercury and excretion of organic and inorganic mercury in urine and feces were monitored for 98 days after dosing. Females cleared mercury from the body more rapidly than did males. The major route of mercury excretion was feces. By 98 days after dosing, cumulative mercury excretion in feces accounted for about 51% of the dose in males and about 54% of the dose in females. For both sexes, about 33% of the dose was excreted in feces as inorganic mercury. Cumulative excretion of organic mercury in feces accounted for about 18 and 21% of the dose in males and females, respectively. Urinary excretion of mercury was quantitatively a smaller route for mercury clearance but important sexual differences in loss by this route were found. Over the 98-day experimental period, males excreted in urine about 3.2% of the dose and females excreted 7.5%. Cumulative organic Hg excretion in urine accounted for 1.8% of the dose in males and 5.3% of the dose in females. These sexual differences in urinary and fecal excretion of organic and inorganic mercury following methyl mercury treatment were consistent with previous reports of sexual differences in mercury distribution and retention in methyl mercury-treated rats, particularly sexual differences in organic mercury uptake and retention in the kidney. Relationships between body burdens of organic or inorganic Hg and output of these forms of Hg in urine and feces were also found to be influenced by the interval after MeHg treatment and by sex. Relationship between concentration of Hg in liver and feces and in kidney and urine differed for organic and inorganic Hg and depended upon sexual status and interval after MeHg treatment. These findings emphasize that sexual differences in distribution, retention, and metabolism of methyl mercury are factors to be considered in estimations of hazards associated with exposure to this agent.


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