Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Toxicology & pharmacology : CBP

Effect of mercury ions on cysteine metabolism in Xenopus laevis tissues.

PMID 21605701


The effect of mercury ions on the level of cysteine, glutathione, sulfane sulfur, and on the activity of rhodanese, 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase (MPST) and γ-cystathionase in brain, heart muscle, liver, kidneys, testes and skeletal muscle of adult Xenopus laevis was investigated. Frogs of both sexes were exposed for 7 or 14 days to 1.353mgL(-1) (ppm) of mercury chloride (HgCl(2)) dissolved in water. The activity of the investigated enzymes participating in cysteine metabolism depends on cysteine in their active sites. Mercury ions can bind to -SH groups and, therefore, lower the activity of enzymes and change the level of sulfane sulfur, a product of l-cysteine desulfuration. The effect of mercury was found to depend on the time of exposure and the kind of tissue. In the liver, the main site of glutathione biosynthesis, the ratio of GSH to GSSG was essentially unchanged. The total glutathione level was decreased after 7 days of exposure to mercury, similarly as the activity of rhodanese. Sulfane sulfur levels were significantly increased after a shorter duration, while they decreased after a longer time of exposure. The kidney, brain and testes were able to enhance the level of GSH, probably thanks to high γ-glutamyltranspeptidase activity. These tissues showed an increased value of GSH/GSSG ratio during the shorter exposure to mercury. The activity of sulfurtransferases was decreased, especially after the longer exposure to mercury. In the heart and skeletal muscle, the level of GSH, sulfane sulfur, and the activity of the investigated sulfurtransferases was diminished after 14 days of exposure to Hg. It can be concluded that the main mechanism of toxic Hg activity is generation of reactive oxygen species in cells due to depleted GSH level, and a decreased sulfurtransferases activity either by blocking or oxidation of their -SH groups, what in consequence results in a diminished sulfane sulfur levels in tissues, especially the heart and testes.