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Aquat Toxicol. 2013 Jan 15;126:274-82. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2012.09.018. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

The interactive effects of selenomethionine and methylmercury on their absorption, disposition, and elimination in juvenile white sturgeon.

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Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


Selenium (Se) and mercury (Hg) are prevalent pollutants of industrialized watersheds. However, when co-administered, Se has protective effects on organisms from Hg. The mechanism is not fully understood, but it is thought that Se reduces Hg availability, either by forming biologically inert complexes and/or associating with selenoproteins. Despite concerns with aquatic contaminations, relatively little information is available on the interaction in aquatic organisms. In the present study, the interactive effects of Se and Hg on their absorption, disposition, and elimination were examined in juvenile white sturgeon, a benthic fish species at high risk to exposures of both contaminants. Selenium and Hg were provided as L-selenomethionine (SeMet) and methylmercury (MeHg), respectively. Groups of 10 sturgeon were orally intubated with a single dose of either 0 (control), SeMet (500 μg Se/kg body weight; BW), MeHg (850 μg Hg/kg BW), or their combination (Se/Hg; 500 μg Se/kg and 850 μg Hg/kg BW). The blood was repeatedly sampled and urine collected from the fish, over a 48 h post intubation period. At 48 h, the fish were sacrificed for Se and Hg tissue concentration and distribution. The co-administration of SeMet and MeHg significantly (p<0.05) lowered blood concentrations of both Se and Hg and tissue Se concentrations. Similarly, assimilation of Se and Hg was also reduced significantly. The interaction has a more quantitative effect on Se metabolism because the reduction in the overall tissue Se is a consequence of reduced Se absorption at the gut and not from the metabolic effects after absorption. In contrast, given the pulse increase in blood Hg concentration, tissue redistribution, and increased urinary elimination, the interactive effect on tissue Hg concentration is likely to be post-absorption. Even in the absence of exogenous SeMet, Se and Hg co-accumulated in tissue at a Se:Hg molar ratio greater than 1. Thus, similar to mammals, maintaining at least a 1:1 molar ratio of Se and Hg is of great physiological importance in the white sturgeon. Interestingly, SeMet did not divert Hg from the brain. Allocation of Se from the kidneys may have occurred in order to maintain the high Se:Hg molar ratios in the brain of white sturgeon. In the current study, the combined use of kinetic analysis and that of the conventional approach of measuring tissue concentration changes provided a comprehensive understanding of the interactive effect of SeMet and MeHg on their respective metabolic processes in juvenile white sturgeon.

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