Adverse immunological effects and autoimmunity induced by dental amalgam and alloy in mice

FASEB J. 1994 Nov;8(14):1183-90. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.8.14.7958626.


Dental amalgam fillings are the most important source of mercury exposure in the general population, but their potential to cause systemic health consequences is disputed. In this study, inbred mice genetically susceptible to mercury-induced immune aberrations were used to examine whether dental amalgam may interfere with the immune system and cause autoimmunity. Female SJL/N mice were implanted in the peritoneal cavity with 8-100 mg silver amalgam or silver alloy for 10 weeks or 6 months. Chronic hyperimmunoglobulinemia, serum IgG autoantibodies targeting the nucleolar protein fibrillarin, and systemic immune-complex deposits developed in a time- and dose-dependent manner after implantation of amalgam or alloy. Splenocytes from mice implanted with amalgam or alloy showed an increased expression of class II molecules. The functional capacity of splenic T and B cells was affected in a dose-dependent way: 10 weeks of low-dose and 6 months of high-dose amalgam implantation strongly increased mitogen-induced T and B cell proliferation, whereas 10 weeks of high-dose implantation decreased the proliferation. Not only mercury but also silver accumulated in the spleen and kidneys after amalgam implantation. In conclusion, dental amalgam implantation in a physiological body milieu causes chronic stimulation of the immune system with induction of systemic autoimmunity in genetically sensitive mice. Implantation of silver alloy not containing mercury also induced autoimmunity, suggesting that other elements, especially silver, have the potential to induce autoimmunity in genetically susceptible vertebrates. Accumulation of heavy metals, from dental amalgam and other sources, may lower the threshold of an individual metal to elicit immunological aberrations. We hypothesize that under appropriate conditions of genetic susceptibility and adequate body burden, heavy metal exposure from dental amalgam may contribute to immunological aberrations, which could lead to overt autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Dental Alloys / adverse effects*
  • Dental Amalgam / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Mercury / adverse effects*
  • Mercury / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mitogens / pharmacology
  • Phenotype
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / immunology


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Dental Alloys
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Mitogens
  • Dental Amalgam
  • Mercury