Investigating Gene-Environment Interactions of Methylmercury Using Zebrafish
Carter, Bradley S.
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Methylmercury (MeHg) is an environmental pollutant found in the Great Lakes and a known danger to prenatal health. The upper limit considered to be safe is 5.8 ppb for newborns in a blood spot taken at birth. In the Lake Superior region, 1% of umbilical cord blood spots from have levels above 58 ppb (10x the safe level), and up to a maximum of 211 ppb. Children prenatally exposed to methylmercury can show a range of neurological deficits, from subtle developmental delays to cerebral palsy. There is thus a need for further understanding molecular and functional alterations due to methylmercury exposure. Knowing more about the alternations due to methylmercury exposure could help prevent neurological deficits in children prenatally exposed to methylmercury. MeHg is eliminated as glutathione (GSH) conjugates. Recent studies of human genetic polymorphisms have revealed that certain alleles of GSH-related genes − GSTP1, GCLC and GCLM are associated with elevated blood Hg levels in adults. We are using a zebrafish model to study the influence of human polymorphisms on neuronal development following MeHg exposure. We have demonstrated that zebrafish exposed during development to low-to-moderate levels of MeHg show neurological deficits during development and as adults.
Department of Biology