Reversibility of thymulin production impairment by L-arginine supplementation in mice exposed to inorganic mercury

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2004 May-Aug;17(2 Suppl):123-8. doi: 10.1177/03946320040170S220.


Immunotoxicological effects fo mercury on peripheral immune system are known. We had previously in vitro found that mercuric chloride inhibits thymulin production in mouse thymus cultures at concentrations as low as 10(-8) M. In this study, thymus efficiency, assessed as production of active and total thymulin, was evaluated in vivo using young mice that were injected sc every 3 days for 4 weeks with saline containing mercuric chloride at different concentrations (0 -controls-, 0.001 or 1.0 mg HgCl2/kg body weight). The results show that both the doses are able to cause a significant reduction in active and total thymulin production. Since arginine enhances immune efficiency some of the animals also received a diet supplemented with arginine in order to evaluate a possible role of arginine during mercury intoxication. The data show that arginine has a protective effect on thymic endocrine efficiency. Mice, treated with the lowest dose of mercury and receiving and arginine supplemented diet, produced active and total thymulin like mercury untreated mice. Arginine is an aminoacid which may be found in various amounts in different foods, some foods are particularly rich in arginine i.e. peanuts, stock fish. We suggest that the daily arginine intake may account for individual susceptibility to the mercury-induced immunological effects which are found in mercury occupationally exposed workers.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine / administration & dosage*
  • Arginine / physiology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Male
  • Mercury / adverse effects*
  • Mercury / urine
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Thymic Factor, Circulating / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Thymic Factor, Circulating / biosynthesis*
  • Thymic Factor, Circulating / metabolism


  • Arginine
  • Thymic Factor, Circulating
  • Mercury