Correlation of mercury and selenium in the human kidney

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 1996 Dec;10(4):251-4. doi: 10.1016/S0946-672X(96)80043-5.


The total mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se) concentrations were determined in kidney cortex samples of 195 deceased, non-occupationally burdened individuals. Mercury was determined by means of Cold-vapour Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (CV-AAS) and selenium by Graphite-Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (GF-AAS). The molar Se/Hg ratio is high (up to (a) 300) in cases with relatively low mercury concentrations [Hg]. The ratio decreases with increasing [Hg]. At [Hg] of 700-1000 ng/g it reaches unity, where it remains constant even at larger [Hg]. Since in vitro mercury and selenium form relatively stable adducts, our results suggest the formation of a 1:1 Hg-Se compound that may explain mercury detoxification by selenium. This effect also results in the trapping of available selenium by mercury, too. Decreasing the reserve of free (i.e. not Hg-bound) selenium. The effect of this decrease of free selenium is under further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kidney Cortex / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mercury / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Selenium / metabolism*
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic


  • Mercury
  • Selenium