Methylmercury (MeHg), an environmental toxicant, induces neuronal cell death and injures a specific area of the brain. MeHg-mediated neurotoxicity is believed to be caused by oxidative stress and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress but the mechanism by which those stresses lead to neuronal loss is unclear. Here, by utilizing the ER stress-activated indicator (ERAI) system, we investigated the signaling alterations in the unfolded protein response (UPR) prior to neuronal apoptosis in the mouse brain. In ERAI transgenic mice exposed to MeHg (25 mg/kg, S.C.), the ERAI signal, which indicates activation of the cytoprotective pathway of the UPR, was detected in the brain. Interestingly, detailed ex vivo analysis showed that the ERAI signal was localized predominantly in neurons. Time course analysis of MeHg exposure (30 ppm in drinking water) showed that whereas the ERAI signal was gradually attenuated at the late phase after increasing at the early phase, activation of the apoptotic pathway of the UPR was enhanced in proportion to the exposure time. These results suggest that MeHg induces not only ER stress but also neuronal cell death via a UPR shift. UPR modulation could be a therapeutic target for treating neuropathy caused by electrophiles similar to MeHg.
- ER stress
- ERAI gene
- Neuronal cell death
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis