Astrocyte-Mediated Methylmercury Neurotoxicity

Gouri Shanker, Tore Syversen, Michael Aschner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Methylmercury (MeHg) is a potent neurotoxicant. Any source of environmental mercury represents a potential risk for human MeHg poisoning, because the methylation of inorganic mercury to MeHg in waterways results ultimately in its accumulation in the sea food chain, which represents the most prevalent source for human consumption. A small amount of MeHg accumulates in the central nervous system (CNS), particularly in astrocytes. Astrocytic swelling, excitatory amino acid (EAA) release and uptake inhibition, as well as EAA transporter expression inhibition are known sequelae of MeHg exposure. Herein, we review the effect of MeHg on additional transport systems (for cystine and cysteine) as well as arachidonic acid (AA) release and cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) regulation and attempt to integrate the effects of MeHg in astrocytes within a mechanistic hypothesis that explains the inability of these cells to maintain control of the proper milieu of the extracellular fluid and, in turn, leads to neuronal demise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Trace Element Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrocytes
  • Cysteine
  • Cystine
  • Cytosolic phospholipase A
  • In vitro
  • Methylmercury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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