Inflammatory response following in vitro exposure to methylmercury with and without n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from systemic lupus erythematosus patients compared to healthy controls.

William Crowe, Philip J Allsopp, JF Nyland, Pamela Magee, Sean Strain, Leanne Doherty, GE Watson, Elisabeth Ball, C Ridell, DJ Armstrong, K Penta, Joshua Todd, Toni Spence, Emeir Mc Sorley

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Methylmercury (MeHg) is a proposed environmental stimulus in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Humans are primarily exposed to MeHg through fish consumption. Fish are also important sources of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFA). This in vitro study investigated the inflammatory response of isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), when exposed to either MeHg alone or with added n-3 LCPUFA, from SLE patients (N = 12) compared to healthy sex matched controls (N = 12). The PBMCs were isolated and exposed to 200 nM of MeHg for 24 h with or without pre-exposure to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at a concentration of 100 μM each. Supernatants were analyzed for the inflammatory markers. Following exposure to MeHg, mean TNF-α concentrations were significantly higher in SLE patients (2226.01 ± 348.98pg/ml) compared to controls (701.40 ± 680.65 pg/ml) (P = .008). Pre-exposure of cells with MeHg and EPA resulted in a significantly higher concentration of IL-8 in supernatants from SLE patients (2137.83 ± 1559.01 pg/ml) compared to that of the controls (879.26 ± 979.49 pg/ml) (P = .030). EPA and DHA attenuated the pro-inflammatory inducing effects of MeHg in SLE and control cells. In summary, exposure to MeHg stimulated a higher TNF-α response in SLE patients compared with healthy controls; nevertheless the presence of n-3 LCPUFA reduced the overall inflammatory response, albeit to a lesser degree in SLE patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-278
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology in Vitro
Early online date17 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018



  • cytokines
  • Inflammation
  • Mercury
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • Docosahexaenoic acid

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