L-arginine reduces mercury accumulation in thymus of mercury-exposed mice: Role of nitric oxide synthase activity and metallothioneins

Massimo Bracci, Marco Tomasetti, Marco Malavolta, Viviana Bonacucina, Eugenio Mocchegiani, Lory Santarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mercury, an occupational and environmental contaminant, is a well-recognized health hazard. The thymus is a target for inorganic mercury (Hg2+); thymic function is impaired in Hg2+ intoxication and is partially restored by simultaneous L-arginine supplementation. The nitric oxide (NO)-nitric oxide synthase (NOS) pathway and metallothioneins (MTs) were studied to investigate the role of L-arginine in thymic function restoration after mercury exposure. Mice received a higher and a lower dose of inorganic mercury, with and without L-arginine supplementation. Saline-treated mice were used as controls. Thymus weight and thymulin were measured as indices of thymic function. Mice treated with Hg2+ alone displayed an accumulation of metal in the thymus, reduced NOS activity, a lower plasma nitrite plus nitrate concentration and an increased MTs expression compared with control mice. L-arginine supplementation was associated with lower Hg2+ concentrations in the organ and partial preservation of other measures. Reduced accumulation of Hg2+ in mice dosed with L-arginine was probably related to greater NO production and NO-MTs interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-574
Number of pages8
JournalIndustrial Health
Volume46
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008

Keywords

  • L-arginine
  • Mercury
  • Metallothioneins
  • Nitric oxide
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Thymus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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