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Braz J Med Biol Res. 1999 Aug;32(8):989-97.

Effects of mercury on the arterial blood pressure of anesthetized rats.

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  • 1Departamento de Ciências Fisiológicas, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Vitória, ES, Brasil.


The available data suggests that hypotension caused by Hg2+ administration may be produced by a reduction of cardiac contractility or by cholinergic mechanisms. The hemodynamic effects of an intravenous injection of HgCl2 (5 mg/kg) were studied in anesthetized rats (N = 12) by monitoring left and right ventricular (LV and RV) systolic and diastolic pressures for 120 min. After HgCl2 administration the LV systolic pressure decreased only after 40 min (99 +/- 3.3 to 85 +/- 8.8 mmHg at 80 min). However, RV systolic pressure increased, initially slowly but faster after 30 min (25 +/- 1.8 to 42 +/- 1.6 mmHg at 80 min). Both right and left diastolic pressures increased after HgCl2 treatment, suggesting the development of diastolic ventricular dysfunction. Since HgCl2 could be increasing pulmonary vascular resistance, isolated lungs (N = 10) were perfused for 80 min with Krebs solution (continuous flow of 10 ml/min) containing or not 5 microM HgCl2. A continuous increase in pulmonary vascular resistance was observed, suggesting the direct effect of Hg2+ on the pulmonary vessels (12 +/- 0.4 to 29 +/- 3.2 mmHg at 30 min). To examine the interactions of Hg2+ and changes in cholinergic activity we analyzed the effects of acetylcholine (Ach) on mean arterial blood pressure (ABP) in anesthetized rats (N = 9) before and after Hg2+ treatment (5 mg/kg). Using the same amount and route used to study the hemodynamic effects we also examined the effects of Hg2+ administration on heart and plasma cholinesterase activity (N = 10). The in vivo hypotensive response to Ach (0.035 to 10.5 microg) was reduced after Hg2+ treatment. Cholinesterase activity (microM h-1 mg protein-1) increased in heart and plasma (32 and 65%, respectively) after Hg2+ treatment. In conclusion, the reduction in ABP produced by Hg2+ is not dependent on a putative increase in cholinergic activity. HgCl2 mainly affects cardiac function. The increased pulmonary vascular resistance and cardiac failure due to diastolic dysfunction of both ventricles are factors that might contribute to the reduction of cardiac output and the fall in arterial pressure.

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