The cessation of the long-term exposure to low doses of mercury ameliorates the increase in systolic blood pressure and vascular damage in rats

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Abstract

This study aimed to verify whether a prolonged exposure to low-level mercury promotes haemodynamic disorders and studied the reversibility of this vascular damage. Rats were divided into seven groups: three control groups received saline solution (im) for 30, 60 or 90 days; two groups received HgCl2 (im, first dose, 4.6 μg/kg, subsequent doses 0.07 μg/kg/day) for 30 or 60 days; two groups received HgCl2 for 30 or 60 days (im, same doses) followed by a 30-day washout period. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) was measured, along with analysis of vascular response to acetylcholine (ACh) and phenylephrine (Phe) in the absence and presence of endothelium, a nitric oxide (NO) synthase inhibitor, an NADPH oxidase inhibitor, superoxide dismutase, a non-selective cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitor and an AT1 receptor blocker. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and antioxidant power were measured in plasma. HgCl2 exposure for 30 and 60 days: a) reduced the endothelium-dependent relaxation; b) increased the Phe-induced contraction and the contribution of ROS, COX-derived vasoconstrictor prostanoids and angiotensin II acting on AT1 receptors to this response while the NO participation was reduced; c) increased the oxidative stress in plasma; d) increased the SBP only after 60 days of exposure. After the cessation of HgCl2 exposure, SBP, endothelium-dependent relaxation, Phe-induced contraction and the oxidative stress were normalised, despite the persistence of the increased COX-derived prostanoids. These results demonstrated that long-term HgCl2 exposure increases SBP as a consequence of vascular dysfunction; however, after HgCl2 removal from the environment the vascular function ameliorates.

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