Zinc and N-acetylcysteine modify mercury distribution and promote increase in hepatic metallothionein levels

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015 Oct;32:183-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2015.06.006. Epub 2015 Jul 21.


This study investigated the ability of zinc (Zn) and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) in preventing the biochemical alterations caused by mercury (Hg) and the retention of this metal in different organs. Adult female rats received ZnCl2 (27mg/kg) and/or NAC (5mg/kg) or saline (0.9%) subcutaneously and after 24h they received HgCl2 (5mg/kg) or saline (0.9%). Twenty-four hours after, they were sacrificed and analyses were performed. Hg inhibited hepatic, renal, and blood δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (δ-ALA-D) activity, decreased renal total thiol levels, as well as increased serum creatinine and urea levels and aspartate aminotransferase activity. HgCl2-exposed groups presented an important retention of Hg in all the tissues analyzed. All pre-treatments demonstrated tendency in preventing hepatic δ-ALA-D inhibition, whereas only ZnCl2 showed this effect on blood enzyme. Moreover, the combination of these compounds completely prevented liver and blood Hg retention. The exposure to Zn and Hg increased hepatic metallothionein levels. These results show that Zn and NAC presented promising effects against the toxicity caused by HgCl2.

Keywords: Mercury; Metallothionein; Non-protein SH; Total SH; Zinc and N-acetylcysteine; δ-Aminolevulinic acid dehydratase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Animals
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Female
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Metallothionein / metabolism*
  • Porphobilinogen Synthase / metabolism
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism
  • Urea / blood
  • Zinc / blood
  • Zinc / pharmacology*


  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Urea
  • Metallothionein
  • Creatinine
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Porphobilinogen Synthase
  • Mercury
  • Zinc
  • Acetylcysteine