Contributing to Understand the Crosstalk between Brain and Periphery in Methylmercury Intoxication: Neurotoxicity and Extracellular Vesicles

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 7;22(19):10855. doi: 10.3390/ijms221910855.


Human exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) is currently high in regions such as the Amazon. Understanding the molecular changes associated with MeHg-induced neurotoxicity and the crosstalk with the periphery is essential to support early diagnoses. This work aimed to evaluate cellular and molecular changes associated with behavioral alterations in MeHg acute exposure and the possible changes in extracellular vesicles (EVs) number and S100β content. Adults male Wistar rats were orally treated with 5 mg/kg for four days. Behavioral performance, molecular and histological changes in the cerebellum, and plasma EVs were assessed. MeHg-intoxicated animals performed significantly worse in behavioral tests. MeHg increased the number of GFAP+ cells and GFAP and S100β mRNA expression in the cerebellum but no change in NeuN+ or IBA-1+ cells number was detected. The number of exosomes isolated from plasma were decreased by the metal. S100B mRNA was detected in circulating plasma EVs cargo in MeHg exposure. Though preliminary, our results suggest astrocytic reactivity is displaying a protective role once there was no neuronal death. Interestingly, the reduction in exosomes number could be a new mechanism associated with MeHg-induced neurotoxicity and plasma EVs could represent a source of future biomarkers in MeHg intoxication.

Keywords: CNS; MeHg; S100b; exosomes; exposure; mercury; pollutant; pollution; qPCR; real time.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebellum / drug effects
  • Cerebellum / pathology*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / drug effects
  • Extracellular Vesicles / pathology*
  • Male
  • Methylmercury Compounds / toxicity*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Methylmercury Compounds