Absorption, distribution, and elimination of graded oral doses of methylmercury in juvenile white sturgeon.
Mercury (Hg) is toxic and is released into the environment from a wide variety of anthropogenic sources. Methylmercury (MeHg), a product of microbial methylation, enables rapid Hg bioaccumulation and biomagnification in the biota. Methylmercury is sequestered and made available to the rest of the biota through the benthic-detrital component leading to the high risk of exposure to benthic fish species, such as white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus). In the present study, a combined technique of stomach intubation, dorsal aorta cannulation, and urinary catheterization was utilized to characterize the absorption, distribution, and elimination of Hg in white sturgeon over a 48h exposure. Mercury, as methylmercury chloride, at either 0, 250, 500, or 1000 ?g Hg/kg body weight, was orally intubated into white sturgeon, in groups of five. The blood was repeatedly sampled and urine collected from the fish over the 48h post intubation period, and at 48h, the fish were sacrificed for Hg tissue concentration and distribution determinations. The fractional rate of absorption (K), blood Hg concentration (?g/ml), tissue concentration (?g/g dry weight) and distribution (%), and urinary Hg elimination flux (?g/kg/h) are significantly different (p<0.05) among the MeHg doses. Complete blood uptake of Hg was observed in all MeHg treated fish by 12h. The maximal observed blood Hg concentration peaks are 0.56±0.02, 0.70±0.02, and 2.19±0.07 ?g/ml (mean±SEM) for the 250, 500, and 1000 ?gHg/kg body weight dose groups, respectively. Changes in blood Hg profiles can be described by a monomolecular function in all of the MeHg treated fish. The Hg concentration asymptote (A) and K are dose dependent. The relationship between A and the intubation dose, however, is nonlinear. Mercury levels in certain tissues are comparable to field data and longer-term study, indicating that the lower doses used in the current study are ecologically relevant for the species. Tissue Hg concentrations are in the following decreasing order: gastro-intestinal tract>kidney>spleen>gill>heart>liver>brain>white muscle and remaining whole body. At 48h, Hg was found to be preferentially distributed to metabolically active tissues. Digestibility is highest at the lowest MeHg dose. Measurable urinary Hg was observed in the fish treated with the highest MeHg dose, and a significant increase in the elimination flux was observed between 3 and 12h post intubation.