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Distribution of mercury and selenium in blood compartments of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Sarasota Bay, Florida


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Total mercury and selenium concentrations ([THg], [Se]) in serum, plasma, whole blood, and packed cells were examined in a resident population of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Sarasota Bay, Florida, USA. The authors determined how these elements partition in blood and assess compartment-specific associations. Determining the distribution of Se and THg can provide physiologic insight into potential association of Hg with selenol-containing biomolecules (e.g., antioxidants) in blood compartments. Concentrations of THg were ranked serum < plasma < whole blood < packed cells; whereas for Se concentrations, plasma < serum < whole blood < packed cells. The Se:THg molar ratio was greater than 1 in all compartments, with the higher ratios found in serum and plasma (plasma < serum) and the lower in whole blood and packed cells (packed cells < whole blood). Age was positively correlated with [THg] in all blood compartments and with [Se] in serum, plasma, and whole blood. Age was negatively correlated with Se:THg molar ratios in all blood compartments, driven by low [THg] in young animals. Although [THg] was highly correlated among all blood compartments, this was not the case for [Se]. The feasibility of calculating packed cell [THg], [Se], and Se:THg molar ratios using hematocrit measurements in combination with whole blood and plasma [THg] and [Se] was validated, allowing routine assessment of compartmentalization within erythrocytes using standard clinical measurements. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2441–2448. © 2013 SETAC