Methylmercury and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with immune dysregulation in young adults from the Seychelles child development study.

Emeir M. McSorley, Edwin van Wijngaarden, Alison J. Yeates, Toni Spence, Maria S Mulhern, Donald Harrington, Sally Thurston, Tanzy Love, Todd Jusko, Philip J Allsopp, Marie Conway, Philip Davidson, Gary Myers, Gene Watson, Conrad Shamlaye, Sean Strain

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Background: Exposure to the environmental toxicant mercury (Hg) has been associated with immune dysregulation, including autoimmune disease, but few human studies have examined methylmercury (MeHg) exposure from fish consumption. Objectives: We examined associations between MeHg exposure and biological markers of autoimmunity and inflammation while adjusting for long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA). Method: At age 19 years, hair total Hg (Y19Hg), LCPUFA status, a panel of 13 antinuclear antibodies (ANA), total serum immunoglobulins (Ig) IgG, IgA, and IgM and serum markers of inflammation (IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, IL-10, C-reactive protein (CRP), IFN-γ, TNF-α) were measured in the Seychelles Child Development Study (SCDS) Main Cohort (n = 497). Multivariable regression models investigated the association between Y19Hg and biomarkers, adjusting for prenatal total hair Hg (MatHg) and other relevant covariates, and with and without adjustment for LCPUFA. Results: With each 1 ppm increase in Y19Hg (mean 10.23 (SD 6.02) ppm) we observed a 4% increased odds in a positive Combined ANA following adjustment for the n6:n3 LCPUFA ratio (β = 0.036, 95%; CI: 0.001, 0.073). IgM was negatively associated with Y19Hg (β = −0.016, 95%CI: 0.016, −0.002) in models adjusted for n-3, n-6 LCPUFA and when separately adjusted for the n-6:n-3 LCPUFA ratio. No associations were observed with MatHg. Total n-3 LCPUFA status was associated with reduced odds of a positive anti-ribonuclear protein (RNP) A. The n-3 LCPUFA were negatively associated with IL-6, IL-10, CRP, IFN-γ, TNF-α and positively with TNF-α:IL-10. There were positive associations between the n-6:n-3 ratio and IL-6, IL-10, CRP, IFN-γ, TNF-α and a negative association with TNF-α:IL-10. Discussion: The Y19Hg exposure was associated with higher ANA and lower IgM albeit only following adjustment for the n-3 LCPUFA or the n-6:n-3 LCPUFA ratio. The clinical significance of these findings is unclear, but warrant follow up at an older age to determine any relationship to the onset of autoimmune disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109072
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Research
Early online date7 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Apr 2020


  • Autoantibody
  • Autoimmunity
  • Cytokine
  • Immunoglobulin
  • Methylmercury


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