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Selenium’s Utility in Mercury Toxicity: A Mini-Review

Roswell Timmerman, Stanley T. Omaye
Food and Nutrition Sciences , Volume 12, pp 124-137; doi:10.4236/fns.2021.122011

Abstract: Purpose: This review of the literature intends to provide readers an understanding of the prophylactic and antidotal usefulness of selenium (Se) for mercury (Hg) toxicity. We will provide an explanation of Hg and Se interactions for potential remediation options to contaminated ecosystems. Design/methodology/approach: In this mini-review, we discuss mechanistic aspects between Hg and Se, the implication for health outcomes, and its usefulness in the ecological recovery of Hg contaminated areas. Findings: Mercury has a strong affinity for Se, resulting in Se-dependent enzymes and proteins’ deactivation with devastating consequences to the host. It is likely that Hg’s toxicity results in Se deficiency. Selenium compounds can have prophylactic or antidotal effects to prevent or reverse the adverse toxicity action of Hg exposure. Current research indicates that the chemical interactions between Hg and Se are unique. The Hg capturing capacity of Se is a million times higher than sulfur compounds and results in inactive complexes. Practical implications: Future work can target engineering methods for technologies that can reduce the toxicity of Hg in the environment. Originality/value: The unique interactions between the elements are that Hg can compromise Se dependent enzymes; however, pharmacologic doses of Se can prevent or modulate the toxic effects of Hg. Paper type: Literature review.
Keywords: Selenium / Mercury / Toxicity / Oxidative Stress / Selenoproteins / Human Health

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