An insect model for assessing mercury toxicity: Effect of mercury on antioxidant enzyme activities of the housefly (Musca domestica) and the cabbage looper moth (Trichoplusia ni)

  • K. Zaman
  • R. S. MacGill
  • J. E. Johnson
  • S. Ahmad
  • R. S. Pardini


The effect of mercury as Hg2Cl2 and HgCl2 on the antioxidant enzyme levels and its toxicity was investigated in an insect model comprised of adult females of the common housefly, Musca domestica, and fourth-instar larvae of the cabbage looper moth, Trichoplusia ni. HgCl2 was found to be more toxic than Hg2Cl2 to both M. domestica and T. ni. The LC50s for M. domestica were 1.17% and 0.38% w/v concentration for Hg2Cl2 and HgCl2, respectively. For the more tolerant T. ni, the LC50s were 5.15% for Hg2Cl2 and 0.96% w/w concentration for HgCl2. The minimally acute LC5 dose of both oxidation states of Hg was approximately 0.005% for both insects (w/v for M. domestica and w/w for T. ni). At the LC5, both forms of Hg significantly induced the activity of superoxide dismutase in both insect species. Catalase was induced by both Hg2Cl2 and HgCl2 in M. domestica but was only induced by HgCl2 in T. ni. Glutathione-S-transferase, its peroxidase activity, and glutathione reductase activites were also significantly altered in most cases by Hg in both insects although the pattern of alteration was different between the two insects. It is evident that mercury induces oxidative stress in insects as it does in vertebrates. Our findings suggest that insects may serve as a valuable, non-mammalian model species to assess Hg-induced oxidative stress as a component of environmental toxicity.


Mercury Antioxidant Enzyme Catalase Superoxide Dismutase Glutathione Reductase 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Zaman
    • 1
  • R. S. MacGill
    • 1
  • J. E. Johnson
    • 1
  • S. Ahmad
    • 1
  • R. S. Pardini
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of Nevada-RenoRenoUSA

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