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Tohoku J Exp Med. 2002 Feb;196(2):71-7.

Modification of mercury toxicity by selenium: practical importance?

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Department of Human Ecology, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


The interaction between mercury and selenium may involve a variety of toxicologically and biochemically distinct processes. In this paper, the interaction between inorganic mercury and sodium selenite, the interaction most extensively studied, as well as the interaction between methylmercury (MeHg) and selenium, the interaction perhaps most significant for non-occupational human populations, will be discussed. It has been shown that the former interaction can be understood as a modification of the kinetic behavior of inorganic mercury by selenite, but this interaction may occur only under very limited conditions. On the other hand, the mechanism of the latter interaction is largely unknown, and kinetic modification appears to play only a minor role. An interaction between MeHg and seleno-proteins or a possible interaction between the inorganic mercury, resulting from the demethylation of MeHg, and the selenium may be important. Compared to the experimental findings, little evidence of the toxicological modification of MeHg by selenium was obtained in epidemiological studies.

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