The Effects Of Mercuric Chloride On Cultured Atlantic Spotted Dolphin (Stenella Plagiodon) Renal Cells And The Role Of Selenium In Protection


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Virginia Tech


Marine mammals are known for their low susceptibility to mercury toxicity, and it was hypothesized that selenium may play a role in protection against mercury toxicity. To gain insight into the mechanisms of the low susceptibility of cetaceans, we investigated the in vitro effects (1) of mercuric chloride (HgCl₂) on the ultrastructure and cell death of Atlantic spotted dolphin renal cells (Sp1K cells), (2) of HgCl₂ on the cell proliferation and cell cycle status of Sp1K and Rhesus monkey renal cells (MK2), and (3) of sodium selenite (Na₂SeO₃) on cell proliferation and cell death of control and HgCl₂-treated Sp1K cells.

HgCl₂ affected multiple organelles and nuclei in Sp1K cells, and induced apoptosis in a time-and dose-dependent manner. Both ultrastructural changes and induction of apoptosis were milder than seen in other cell types in previous publications. In addition, Sp1K cells were able to proliferate at 25 µM HgCl₂ while MK2 cells were killed at 15 µM HgCl₂. An increase in percentage of cells in the G0/G1 phase in the cell cycle and a decrease in S, and G2/M phase cells were seen in Sp1K cells exposed to more than 10 uM HgCl₂ more than 72 hours. MK2 cells showed cell cycle changes only at 24 hours exposure, and may be due to a sensitive subgroup. These data suggested that Sp1K cells were less susceptible than other cell types in a cell-specific way, which was independent of selenium protection.

Concurrent exposure to Na₂SeO₃ provided protection against the HgCl₂-induced decrease in cell proliferation of Sp1K. The protective effects were greater if Na₂SeO₃ and HgCl₂ were premixed, but disappeared if exposures did not overlap. Although pretreatments with Na₂SeO₃ alone did not provide protection, they increased the protection of selenium administered later. Furthermore, Na₂SeO₃ decreased HgCl₂-induced apoptosis. These data demonstrated the Na₂SeO₃ protection against HgCl₂ toxicity in Sp1K cells in terms of cell proliferation and apoptosis.

This study is the first report that reveals the existence of mercury-selenium antagonism in cultured cetacean cells. The data supported the hypothesis that selenium protection against mercury toxicity is, at least partially, through competition of binding sites and formation of mercury-selenium complex.



Selenium, Kidney, Cetacean, Dolphin, in vivo, Mercury