Journal of Pharmacological Sciences
Online ISSN : 1347-8648
Print ISSN : 1347-8613
ISSN-L : 1347-8613
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L-Glutamate Enhances Methylmercury Toxicity by Synergistically Increasing Oxidative Stress
Sirirat AmonpatumratHiroyuki SakuraiPattama WiriyasermkulNarakorn KhunweeraphongShushi NagamoriHidekazu TanakaPawinee PiyachaturawatYoshikatsu Kanai
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2008 Volume 108 Issue 3 Pages 280-289


Methylmercury (MeHg) is a well-known environmental toxicant. With its lipophilic nature and high reactivity to sulfhydryl groups, it is widely distributed and accumulated in the body to damage cells. Oxidative stress is proposed as a major mechanism underlying the cytotoxic action of MeHg. In the present study, we found that L-glutamate (L-Glu) concentration-dependently increased MeHg cytotoxicity in HeLa S3 cells. The enhancement of the toxicity was accompanied by enhanced apoptosis, increased production of reactive oxygen species, and decreased glutathione level. An anti-oxidant N-acetylcysteine largely alleviated the cytotoxicity, suggesting enhanced oxidative stress behind L-Glu-elicited increase of MeHg toxicity. The effect was specific to L-Glu and L-α-aminoadipate, whereas D-Glu, L-aspartate, and D-aspartate were not effective. In addition, the cystine uptake by the cells was mostly mediated by a L-Glu/L-α-aminoadipate–sensitive amino acid transport system xC. All these results suggest that the inhibition of system xC by L-Glu underlies the enhancement of MeHg cytotoxicity. The enhancement was highly synergistic because MeHg and L-Glu alone had little toxic effect in the conditions used. This synergism was confirmed in neural cells (neuroblastoma cell lines). It is proposed that similar mechanisms may underlie the neural toxicity of MeHg, particularly in the locality of lesions characteristic of MeHg toxicity.

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© The Japanese Pharmacological Society 2008
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