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Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Dec 1;36(23):5124-9.

Factors controlling the bioavailability of ingested methylmercury to channel catfish and Atlantic sturgeon.

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  • 1Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science, PO Box 38, Solomons, Maryland 20688, USA.


The bioavailability of ingested methylmercury (CH3Hg(III) was investigated in vitro using the gastric and intestinal fluids of channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, and Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus. Gastric fluid collected from each species was incubated with CH3Hg(II)-spiked sediment or bloodworms, after which the intestinal fluid of each species was added and incubated further. The proportion of CH3Hg(II) solubilized from bloodworms and sediment appeared to be controlled by complexation to amino acids in both the stomach and the intestinal fluids during the digestive process,with the more thorough digestion of bloodworm organic material enhancing CH3Hg(II) solubilization. A greater proportion of CH3Hg(II) was solubilized by the sturgeon fluids compared to the catfish fluids, especially for the sediment incubations. These differences corresponded to the relative amount of amino acids in the fluids of these fish. A comparison of the catfish gastrointestinal solubilization incubations and a CH3-Hg(II) bioaccumulation experiment with bloodworms revealed that the solubilization incubations may be a reasonable surrogate measurement of the bioavailability of CH3Hg(II) to fish. Overall, it appears that digestive processes is the most important controlling factor in the bioavailability of CH3Hg(II) to fish.

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