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Toxicology. 2002 Jun 14;175(1-3):215-22.

Maternal-to-fetus transfer of mercury in metallothionein-null pregnant mice after exposure to mercury vapor.

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Department of Chemistry, St. Marianna University School of Medicine, 2-16-1 Sugao, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki 261-8511, Japan.


This study examined the role of placenta metallothionein (MT) in maternal-to-fetal mercury transfer in MT-null and wild-type mice after exposure to elemental mercury (Hg(0)) vapor. Both strains were exposed to Hg(0) vapor at 5.5-6.7 mg/m(3) for 3 h during late gestation. Twenty-four hours after exposure to Hg(0) vapor, accumulation of mercury in the major organs, except the brain, of MT-null maternal mice was significantly lower than that in organs of wild-type mice. In contrast to mercury levels in maternal organs, fetal mercury levels were significantly higher in MT-null mice than in wild-type mice. In placenta, mercury concentrations were not significantly different between the two strains. Although MT levels in major organs, except the brain, of wild type mice were markedly elevated after the exposure to Hg(0) vapor, the placental MT levels were not elevated. However, endogenous MT level in the placenta is significantly higher than that in other organs, except the liver. Gel filtration profile of the placental cytosol in the wild-type mice revealed that a large amount of placental mercury was associated with MT. In MT-null mice, mercury in placental cytosol appeared mainly in the high-molecular-weight protein fractions. Mercury in the placenta was localized mainly in the yolk sac and decidual cells in the deep layer of the decidua in both mouse strains. The similar localization of MT was found in the placenta of wild type mice. These results suggest that MT in the placenta has a defensive role in preventing maternal-to-fetal mercury transfer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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