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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Mar 19;47(6):2862-8. doi: 10.1021/es304226h. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

Selenomethionine protects against neuronal degeneration by methylmercury in the developing rat cerebrum.

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  • 1National Institute for Minamata Disease, Minamata, Kumamoto 867-0008, Japan. sakamoto@nimd.go.jp


Although many experimental studies have shown that selenium protects against methylmercury (MeHg) toxicity at different end points, the direct interactive effects of selenium and MeHg on neurons in the brain remain unknown. Our goal is to confirm the protective effects of selenium against neuronal degeneration induced by MeHg in the developing postnatal rat brain using a postnatal rat model that is suitable for extrapolating the effects of MeHg to the fetal brain of humans. As an exposure source of selenium, we used selenomethionine (SeMet), a food-originated selenium. Wistar rats of postnatal days 14 were orally administered with vehicle (control), MeHg (8 mg Hg/kg/day), SeMet (2 mg Se/kg/day), or MeHg plus SeMet coexposure for 10 consecutive days. Neuronal degeneration and reactive astrocytosis were observed in the cerebral cortex of the MeHg-group but the symptoms were prevented by coexposure to SeMet. These findings serve as a proof that dietary selenium can directly protect neurons against MeHg toxicity in the mammalian brain, especially in the developing cerebrum.

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