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Effects of mercury on neurochemical receptor-binding characteristics in wild mink

Authors

  • Niladri Basu,

    1. Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada
    2. Center for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, McGill University, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada
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  • Kate Klenavic,

    1. Environmental and Resource Studies, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7B8, Canada
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  • Mary Gamberg,

    1. Gamberg Consulting, Box 10460, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Y1A 7A1, Canada
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  • Mike O'Brien,

    1. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Kentville, Nova Scotia B4N 4E5, Canada
    2. Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia BOP 1X0, Canada
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  • Doug Evans,

    1. Environmental and Resource Studies, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7B8, Canada
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  • Anton M. Scheuhammer,

    1. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3, Canada
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  • Hing Man Chan

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, McGill University, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada
    2. School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada
    • Center for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, McGill University, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada
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Abstract

Piscivorous wildlife, such as mink (Mustela visori), routinely are exposed to mercury (Hg) in their natural environment at levels that may cause adverse behavioral outcomes. The purpose of this study was to determine if a correlation exists between neurochemical receptors and concentrations of Hg in the brains of wild mink. Specifically, receptor-binding assays were conducted to characterize the muscarinic cholinergic (mACh) and dopaminergic-2 (D2) systems in brain tissues collected from mink trapped in the Yukon Territory, Ontario, and Nova Scotia (Canada), and values were correlated with total Hg and methyl Hg (MeHg) concentrations in the brains. A significant correlation was found between Hg (total Hg and MeHg) and mACh receptor density (r = 0.546; r = 0.596, respectively) or ligand affinity (r = 0.413; r = 0.474, respectively). A significant negative correlation was found between total Hg and D2 receptor density (r = -0.340) or ligand affinity (r = -0.346). These correlations suggest that environmentally relevant concentrations of Hg may alter neurochemical function in wild mink, and that neurochemical receptor-binding characteristics can be used as a novel biomarker to assess Hg's effects on wildlife. Given the importance of the muscarinic cholinergic and dopaminergic pathways in animal behavior, further studies are required to explore the physiological and ecological significance of these findings.

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