, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 201-206

Accumulation of methylmercury and inorganic mercury in the brain

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Differences in metabolism between different mercury species are well recognized. Conclusions that only a minor demethylation of methylmercury takes place in the brain are based primarily on results from short term studies. Results from a number of studies on humans exposed for many years to methylmercury have shown high concentrations of inorganic mercury in the brain in relation to total mercury. Similar evidence is available from studies on monkeys exposed for several years to methylmercury. The results indicate that a significant accumulation of inorganic mercury takes place with time despite the fact that the demethylation rate is slow. Differences in biological halftimes between different mercury species will explain the results. Some data do still need confirmation using different analytical methods. There is reason to believe that the one-compartment model for methyl mercury cannot be used without reservations. Inorganic mercury has a complicated metabolism. After exposure to metallic mercury vapor, inorganic mercury, probably bound to selenium, accumulates in the brain. A fraction of the mercury is excreted, with a long biological halftime. Studies on rats and monkeys indicate that inorganic mercury penetrates the blood-brain barrier only to a very limited-extent.