Mercury neurotoxicity: Mechanisms of blood-brain barrier transport

Michael Aschner, Judy Lynn Aschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

288 Scopus citations


Mercury exists in a wide variety of physical and chemical states, each of which has unique characteristics of target organ toxicity. The classic symptoms associated with exposure to elemental mercury vapor (Hg0) and methylmercury (Ch3Hg+; MeHg) involve the central nervous system (CNS), while the kidney is the target organ for the mono- and divalent salts of mercury (Hg+ and Hg++, respectively). Physical properties and redox potentials determine the qualitative and quantitative differences in toxicity among inorganic mercury compounds, while the ability of MeHg to cross the blood-brain barrier accounts for its accumulation in the CNS and a clinical picture that is dominated by neurological disturbances. This review gives an up-to-date account of mercury's physical and chemical properties and its interaction with biologically active sites pertinent to transport across the blood-brain barrier, a major regulator of the CNS millieu.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-176
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Neutral amino acid
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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