The reproductive and cognitive effects of in-utero mercuric chloride exposure;and the ameliorating effects of selenium. R15 Application Exposure to mercury (Hg) has been associated with adverse reproductive and neuro-behavioral factors. Alabama is the 4th largest inorganic Hg (IHg) waste producer with 16,220lbs released into the environment in 2008. Of the five counties releasing the most IHg waste, three have higher infant death rates, four have higher low birth weight rates, and four have a lower percentage of mothers with a second birth in under two years. While not all adverse reproductive data presented is caused by Hg, the association between IHg pollution in Alabama and the distribution of adverse reproductive data is striking. Inorganic mercury has an effect on incidence rates of menstrual disorders, primary subfecundity, and lower viable fetuses. Studies focusing on very early exposure of inorganic mercury reveal neuro-developmental effects, behavioral deficits and increased Hg in the cerebrum and the cerebellum. Selenium (Se), an essential nutrient, is an important factor in fertility in females. We propose to study 1) the ameliorating effects of a selenium enriched diet on reproduction in female rats exposed to IHg;and 2) the cognitive and behavioral effects of in-utero exposure in offspring. Our hypothesis is a selenium enriched diet lessens the adverse reproductive effects of IHg;and in-utero exposure to IHg is a cause of cognitive deficits in offspring. These findings could lead to an inexpensive and effective remedy to alleviate some of the detrimental influence of IHg on reproduction, and establish that in-utero exposure to IHg is related to cognitive deficits in offspring. This could have a direct impact on populations living in mercury polluted areas. Within our laboratory we have always maintained a policy of including undergraduates in our Research. To this end, several undergraduate students have experienced a unique encounter with science during our studies. Undergraduate psychology and biology students received interdisciplinary training that allows them to look at the effects of an environmental pollutant on the whole organism as well as at the cellular level. Undergraduate research assistants from our laboratory have presented posters at the Annual Meeting of the Teratology Society, in Monterey, Ca., and at the 7th Annual Troy University Psychology Conference, in Troy Al., where they won first prize. Through the R15 mechanism we intend to give undergraduate students from psychology and biology the opportunity to understand research from both the behavioral and the biological perspective. With the reproductive study looking at biology and the behavioral study in our newly formed operant laboratory looking at cognitive effects, students will come to understand the relationship between the behavior of the whole organism and damage caused at the cellular level by environmental toxins. This will be give them a unique perspective of the interaction of behavior and cellular damage.

Public Health Relevance

Inorganic mercury has been shown to have a detrimental effect on reproduction and cognitive abilities. Alabama is the 4th largest mercury (Hg) waste producing state with detrimental birth data that correlates with (Hg) waste distribution. We intend to investigate if a selenium diet offsets these effects and whether in-utero exposure causes neuro-behavioral deficits in offspring.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)
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Integrative and Clinical Endocrinology and Reproduction Study Section (ICER)
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Kirshner, Annette G
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Tuskegee University
Veterinary Sciences
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
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