Prenatal methylmercury exposure hampers glutathione antioxidant system ontogenesis and causes long-lasting oxidative stress in the mouse brain

James Stringari, Adriana K.C. Nunes, Jeferson L. Franco, Denise Bohrer, Solange C. Garcia, Alcir L. Dafre, Dejan Milatovic, Diogo O. Souza, João B.T. Rocha, Michael Aschner, Marcelo Farina

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153 Scopus citations

Abstract

During the perinatal period, the central nervous system (CNS) is extremely sensitive to metals, including methylmercury (MeHg). Although the mechanism(s) associated with MeHg-induced developmental neurotoxicity remains obscure, several studies point to the glutathione (GSH) antioxidant system as an important molecular target for this toxicant. To extend our recent findings of MeHg-induced GSH dyshomeostasis, the present study was designed to assess the developmental profile of the GSH antioxidant system in the mouse brain during the early postnatal period after in utero exposure to MeHg. Pregnant mice were exposed to different doses of MeHg (1, 3 and 10 mg/l, diluted in drinking water, ad libitum) during the gestational period. After delivery, pups were killed at different time points - postnatal days (PND) 1, 11 and 21 - and the whole brain was used for determining biochemical parameters related to the antioxidant GSH system, as well as mercury content and the levels of F2-isoprostane. In control animals, cerebral GSH levels significantly increased over time during the early postnatal period; gestational exposure to MeHg caused a dose-dependent inhibition of this developmental event. Cerebral glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione reductase (GR) activities significantly increased over time during the early postnatal period in control animals; gestational MeHg exposure induced a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on both developmental phenomena. These adverse effects of prenatal MeHg exposure were corroborated by marked increases in cerebral F2-isoprostanes levels at all time points. Significant negative correlations were found between F2-isoprostanes and GSH, as well as between F2-isoprostanes and GPx activity, suggesting that MeHg-induced disruption of the GSH system maturation is related to MeHg-induced increased lipid peroxidation in the pup brain. In utero MeHg exposure also caused a dose-dependent increase in the cerebral levels of mercury at birth. Even though the cerebral mercury concentration decreased to nearly basal levels at postnatal day 21, GSH levels, GPx and GR activities remained decreased in MeHg-exposed mice, indicating that prenatal exposure to MeHg affects the cerebral GSH antioxidant systems by inducing biochemical alterations that endure even when mercury tissue levels decrease and become indistinguishable from those noted in pups born to control dams. This study is the first to show that prenatal exposure to MeHg disrupts the postnatal development of the glutathione antioxidant system in the mouse brain, pointing to an additional molecular mechanism by which MeHg induces pro-oxidative damage in the developing CNS. Moreover, our experimental observation corroborates previous reports on the permanent functional deficits observed after prenatal MeHg exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-154
Number of pages8
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Volume227
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 15 2008

Keywords

  • Antioxidant enzymes
  • Developmental neurotoxicity
  • Glutathione
  • Methylmercury
  • Oxidative stress
  • Prenatal exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology

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    Stringari, J., Nunes, A. K. C., Franco, J. L., Bohrer, D., Garcia, S. C., Dafre, A. L., Milatovic, D., Souza, D. O., Rocha, J. B. T., Aschner, M., & Farina, M. (2008). Prenatal methylmercury exposure hampers glutathione antioxidant system ontogenesis and causes long-lasting oxidative stress in the mouse brain. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 227(1), 147-154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.taap.2007.10.010