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Methylmercury accumulation and fluxes across the intestine of channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus.

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


The excised intestines of channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, were perfused at 20 or 4 degrees C for 1 h 45 min, with methylmercury (CH(3)HgCl) alone, or in the presence of excess L-cysteine (L-Cys), D-cysteine (D-Cys), L-methionine (L-Met); or with ouabain or probenecid to identify the potential CH(3)Hg(II) uptake pathways in fish intestines. A temperature effect was noted, with CH(3)Hg(II) concentrations in tissues perfused at 20 degrees C being higher than at 4 degrees C, substantiating the idea that mechanisms requiring metabolic energy are involved in CH(3)Hg(II) uptake in fish intestines. The results indicate that, when CH(3)Hg(II) is complexed as the CH(3)Hg-L-Cys complex, it is taken up via an L-neutral amino acid carrier and rapidly transported to the serosal side of the intestine. Methylmercury uptake could be inhibited by probenecid and ouabain, although probenecid had less impact on CH(3)Hg(II) uptake than ouabain. Our results for CH(3)Hg(II) uptake in the presence of D-Cys, L-Met in excess of L-Cys, or with a metal mixture further established that CH(3)Hg(II) uptake across fish intestines occurs via a variety of pathways, including an energy-dependent L-neutral amino acid carrier, and that the route and amount of accumulation were a function of CH(3)Hg(II) speciation in the digestive tract of the fish.

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