Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 82, Issue 6, pp 343–353 | Cite as

Attenuation by methyl mercury and mercuric sulfide of pentobarbital induced hypnotic tolerance in mice through inhibition of ATPase activities and nitric oxide production in cerebral cortex

  • Jiunn-Jye Chuu
  • Zih-Ning Huang
  • Hsun-Hsin Yu
  • Liang-Hao Chang
  • Shoei-Yn Lin-Shiau
Inorganic Compounds


This study is aimed at exploring the possible mechanism of hypnosis-enhancing effect of HgS or cinnabar (a traditional Chinese medicine containing more than 95% HgS) in mice treated with pentobarbital. We also examined whether the effect of HgS is different from that of the well-known methyl mercury (MeHg). After a short period (7 days) of oral administration to mice, a nontoxic dose (0.1 g/kg) of HgS not only significantly enhanced pentobarbital-induced hypnosis but also attenuated tolerance induction; while a higher dose (1 g/kg) of HgS or cinnabar exerted an almost irreversible enhancing effect on pentobarbital-hypnosis similar to that of MeHg (2 mg/kg) tested, which was still effective even after 10 or 35 days cessation of administration. To study comparatively the effects of different mercury forms from oral administration of MeHg and HgS on membrane ATPase activities of experimental mice, analysis of the Hg content in the cerebral cortex revealed that correlated with the decrease of Na+/K+-ATPase and Ca2+-ATPase activities. Furthermore, NO levels of blood but not that of cerebral cortex were also decreased by mercuric compounds. Although pentobarbital alone enhanced cytochrome p450–2C9 in time dependent manner, all of mercurial compounds tested had no such effect. All of these findings indicated that the mercurial compounds including cinnabar, HgS and MeHg exert a long-lasting enhancing hypnotic activity without affecting pentobarbital metabolism, which provides evidence-based sedative effect of cinnabar used in Chinese traditional medicine for more than 2,000 years. The nontoxic HgS dosing (0.1 g/kg/day) for consecutive 7 days is perhaps useful for delaying or preventing pentobarbital-tolerance.


Hypnosis HgS Cinnabar ATPase Nitric oxide 



This investigation was supported by a research grant (CCMP88-RD-045) Committee on Chinese pharmacy, Department of Health, Executive Yuan, Taipei, Taiwan and a research grant (NSC-94-2-2320-B-002-010 and NSC 93-2320-B-002-045) from National Science Council, Taipei, Taiwan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiunn-Jye Chuu
    • 1
  • Zih-Ning Huang
    • 1
  • Hsun-Hsin Yu
    • 1
  • Liang-Hao Chang
    • 1
  • Shoei-Yn Lin-Shiau
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of BiotechnologyCollege of Engineering, Southern Taiwan UniversityTainanTaiwan
  2. 2. Institute of Pharmacology College of Medicine, National Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan, ROC

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