Alkyl Mercury-Induced Toxicity: Multiple Mechanisms of Action

Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 240)


There are a number of mechanisms by which alkylmercury compounds cause toxic action in the body. Collectively, published studies reveal that there are some similarities between the mechanisms of the toxic action of the mono-alkyl mercury compounds methylmercury (MeHg) and ethylmercury (EtHg). This paper represents a summary of some of the studies regarding these mechanisms of action in order to facilitate the understanding of the many varied effects of alkylmercurials in the human body. The similarities in mechanisms of toxicity for MeHg and EtHg are presented and compared. The difference in manifested toxicity of MeHg and EtHg are likely the result of the differences in exposure, metabolism, and elimination from the body, rather than differences in mechanisms of action between the two.


Arachidonic acid Calcium homeostasis Cell cycle/division Ethylmercury Glial cells Glutamate Glutamine Glutathione (GSH) Leukotriene synthesis mechanism of toxicity Membrane permeability/integrity Methylmercury Mitochondria Neurotransmitter release nitric oxide Oxidative stress Reactive oxygen species Receptor binding ROS Thimerosal 



The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


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© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Toxicology and Human Health SciencesAgency for Toxic Substances and Disease RegistryAtlantaUSA

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