2018 Volume 43 Issue 1 Pages 11-17
This study examined the effects on neurobehavioral function of exposure to low-level mercury vapor (Hg0), methylmercury (MeHg) in female mice and the combination of Hg0 and MeHg during postnatal development. Postnatal mice were exposed to Hg0 at a mean concentration of 0.188 mg/m3 Hg0 and supplied with food containing 3.85 μg/g of MeHg from day 2 to day 28 after delivery. The combined exposure group was exposed to both Hg0 and MeHg, using the same procedure. When their offspring reached the age of 11 weeks, behavioral analyses were performed. The behavioral effects in mice were evaluated based on locomotive activity and rate of center entries in the open field (OPF), learning activity in the passive avoidance response (PA) and spatial learning ability in the radial maze (RM). Total locomotive activity in the OPF significantly decreased in the Hg0, MeHg and combined exposure groups compared with the control group. The proportion of entries to central area in the OPF was significantly higher in the combined exposure group than in the control group, while those in the Hg0 or MeHg exposure group did not differ from the control group. Other behavioral tests did not reveal significant differences among the groups. Behavioral anomalies were more distinctive after combined exposure compared to Hg0 or MeHg exposure alone. The brain Hg concentration of offspring, immediately after exposure, was highest in the combined exposure group, exceeding 2 μg/g, followed by the MeHg and Hg0 exposure groups. Thus, the enhancement of neurobehavioral effects in the combined exposure group was associated with higher brain mercury concentration.