Changes in biochemical processes in cerebellar granule cells of mice exposed to methylmercury.
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At postnatal day 34, male and female C57BL/6J mice were exposed orally once a day to a total of five doses totaling 1.0 or 5.0 mg/kg of methylmercuric chloride or sterile deionized water in moistened rodent chow. Eleven days after the last dose cerebellar granule cells were acutely isolated to measure reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and mitochondrial membrane potential using CM-H(2)DCFDA and TMRM dyes, respectively. For visualizing intracellular calcium ion distribution using transmission electron microscopy, mice were perfused 11 days after the last dose of methylmercury (MeHg) using the oxalate-pyroantimonate method. Cytosolic and mitochondrial protein fractions from acutely isolated granule cells were analyzed for cytochrome c content using Western blot analysis. Histochemistry (Fluoro-Jade dye) and immunohistochemistry (activated caspase 3) was performed on frozen serial cerebellar sections to label granule cell death and activation of caspase 3, respectively. Granule cells isolated from MeHg-treated mice showed elevated ROS levels and decreased mitochondrial membrane potential when compared to granule cells from control mice. Electron photomicrographs of MeHg-treated granule cells showed altered intracellular calcium ion homeostasis ([Ca(2+)](i)) when compared to control granule cells. However, in spite of these subcellular changes and moderate relocalization of cytochrome c into the cytosol, the concentrations of MeHg used in this study did not produce significant neuronal cell death/apoptosis at the time point examined, as evidenced by Fluoro-Jade and activated caspase 3 immunostaining, respectively. These results demonstrate that short-term in vivo exposure to total doses of 1.0 and 5.0 mg/kg MeHg through the most common exposure route (oral) can result in significant subcellular changes that are not accompanied by overt neuronal cell death.