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J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:924549. doi: 10.1155/2012/924549. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

Mercury toxicity on sodium pump and organoseleniums intervention: a paradox.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Federal University of Technology, FUTA Road, PMB 704, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria.


Mercury is an environmental poison, and the damage to living system is generally severe. The severity of mercury poisoning is consequent from the fact that it targets the thiol-containing enzymes, irreversibly oxidizing their critical thiol groups, consequently leading to an inactivation of the enzyme. The Na⁺/K⁺-ATPase is a sulfhydryl protein that is sensitive to Hg²⁺ assault. On the other hand, organoseleniums are a class of pharmacologically promising compounds with potent antioxidant effects. While Hg²⁺ oxidizes sulfhydryl groups of Na⁺/K⁺-ATPase under in vitro and in vivo conditions, the organoselenium compounds inhibit Na⁺/K⁺-ATPase in vitro but enhance its activities under in vivo conditions with concomitant increase in the level of endogenous thiols. Paradoxically, it appears that these two thiol oxidants can be used to counteract one another under in vivo conditions, and this hypothesis serves as the basis for this paper.

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