Behavioural Effects of Prenatal Metallic Mercury Inhalation Exposure in Rats

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Nov-Dec 1993;15(6):391-6. doi: 10.1016/0892-0362(93)90056-t.


The effects of administration by inhalation of metallic mercury vapour (Hg0) to pregnant rats, approximately corresponding to doses of 0.2 mg Hg0/kg/day (high dose) or 0.07 mg Hg0/kg/day (low dose), on the developmental and behavioural repertoire of the offspring were studied. Exposure occurred during days 11-14 plus 17-20 of gestation. The dose levels were selected so as not to induce maternal toxicity. Maturation variables such as surface righting, negative geotaxis, pinna unfolding, and tooth eruption revealed no differences between Hg0-treated offspring and controls. Tests of spontaneous motor activity showed that the Hg0-treated offspring were hypoactive at 3 months of age but hyperactive at 14 months. In spatial learning tasks the prenatally exposed offspring showed retarded acquisition in the radial arm maze but no differences in circular swim maze. A simple test of learning, habituation to a novel environment (activity chambers), indicated a reduced ability to adapt. These data suggest that prenatal exposure to Hg0 vapour results in similar behaviour changes in the offspring as reported for methylmercury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / drug effects
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mercury / analysis
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Mercury