, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 73–81

Cadmium and mercury cause an oxidative stress-induced endothelial dysfunction


DOI: 10.1007/s10534-006-9016-0

Cite this article as:
Wolf, M.B. & Baynes, J.W. Biometals (2007) 20: 73. doi:10.1007/s10534-006-9016-0


We investigated the ability of cadmium and mercury ions to cause endothelial dysfunction in bovine pulmonary artery endothelial cell monolayers. Exposure of monolayers for 48 h to metal concentrations greater than 3–5 μM produced profound cytotoxicity (increased lactate dehydrogenase leakage), a permeability barrier failure, depletion of glutathione and ATP and almost complete inhibition of the activity of key thiol enzymes, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH) and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH). In contrast, metal concentrations less than 1–2 μM induced increases in glutathione and thiol-enzyme activities with minimal changes in LDH leakage, barrier function and ATP content. At shorter incubation times (24 h or less), high concentrations of cadmium caused glutathione induction rather than depletion. Thus, oxidative stress and cytotoxicity induced by lower concentrations of the metal ions stimulate compensatory responses, including increased synthesis of glutathione, which presumably preserved the activity of key thiol enzymes, however these responses were not sustainable at higher metal ion concentrations. We conclude, while high concentrations of heavy metals are cytotoxic, lower concentration induce a compensatory protective response, which may explain threshold effects in metal-ion toxicity.

Key words

heavy metalsoxidative stressendothelial dysfunctionendothelial barrier dysfunctionglutathioneATPthiol enzymes

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, Physiology & NeuroscienceUniversity of South Carolina School of MedicineColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Developmental Biology and AnatomyUniversity of South Carolina School of MedicineColumbiaUSA