An investigation of modifying effects of single nucleotide polymorphisms in metabolism-related genes on the relationship between peripheral nerve function and mercury levels in urine and hair

Yi Wang, Jaclyn M. Goodrich, Robert Werner, Brenda Gillespie, Niladri Basu, Alfred Franzblau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Mercury (Hg) is a potent neurotoxicant. We hypothesized that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes coding glutathione-related proteins, selenoproteins and metallothioneins may modify the relationship of mercury biomarkers with changes in peripheral nerve function. Dental professionals (n = 515) were recruited in 2009 and 2010. Sensory nerve function (onset latency, peak latency and amplitude) of the median, ulnar and sural nerves was recorded. Samples of urine, hair and DNA were collected. Covariates related to demographics, nerve function and elemental and methyl-mercury exposure were also collected. Subjects included 244 dentists (47.4%) and 269 non-dentists (52.2%; mostly dental hygienists and dental assistants). The mean mercury levels in urine (1.06 μg/L) and hair (0.51 μg/g) were not significantly different from the US general population (0.95 μg/L and 0.47 μg/g, respectively). In multivariate linear models predicting nerve function adjusting for covariates, only 3 out of a total of 504 models showed stable and statistically significant interaction of SNPs with mercury biomarkers. Overall, given the possibility of false positives, the results suggested little evidence of effect modification of the SNPs on the relationship between mercury biomarkers with peripheral nerve function at exposure levels that are relevant to the general US population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-38
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Feb 15 2012



  • Glutathione
  • Mercury biomarker
  • Metallothionein
  • Nerve function
  • Selenoprotein
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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