Prenatal mercury exposure, neurodevelopment and apolipoprotein E genetic polymorphism

Environ Res. 2017 Jan;152:375-385. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.08.035. Epub 2016 Sep 9.


The aim of the present study was to evaluate the association between prenatal exposure to mercury (Hg) and neurodevelopment of the child, taking into account genetic polymorphism of apolipoprotein E (Apoe) and other relevant confounders. Six hundred and one mother-child pairs were recruited from the central Slovenia region and 243 from Rijeka, on the Croatian coast of the northern Adriatic. The total Hg in cord blood, Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition (Bayley-III) assessment at 18 months of age and Apoe genotyping was performed on 361 children; 237 of them were from Slovenia and 124 from Croatia. The results showed negative association between low-to-moderate Hg exposure in children with normal neurodevelopmental outcome and cognitive and fine motor scores at 18 months of age as assessed by Bayley III. The Hg-related decrease in cognitive score was observed only in children carrying at least one Apoe ε4 allele, while the decrease in fine motor scores was independent of the Apoe genotype. Adjusting for selenium (Se) and lead (Pb) levels, a positive association between Se and the language score and a negative association between Pb and the motor score was observed, but not in the subgroup of children carrying the ε4 allele.

Keywords: Apolipoprotein E; Cord blood; Genetic polymorphism; Lead; Mercury; Neurodevelopment; Selenium.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics*
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism
  • Child Development / drug effects
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Croatia / epidemiology
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Motor Skills / drug effects*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Selenium / blood
  • Slovenia / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • ApoE protein, human
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Mercury
  • Selenium