Selenium (Se) bioavailability is required for synthesis and function of essential Se-dependent antioxidants, including the enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GPx). Strong interactions between monomethyl mercury and Se impair the critical antioxidant role of Se. Approximately 20% of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus, SSL) pups sampled in the western Aleutian Islands, Alaska, had total Hg concentrations ([THg]) measured in hair and whole blood above thresholds of concern for adverse physiologic effects in pinnipeds. Importantly, low molar ratios of TSe:THg, in some cases < 1 in several tissues (hair, liver, pelt, muscle, spleen, intestine, heart, lungs, brain) were documented for one SSL pup with [THg] above threshold of concern, which may lead to antioxidant deficiency. Our aim with this study was to evaluate the relationship between circulating [THg], [MeHg+], [TSe] and TSe:THg molar ratio status relative to oxidative stress and antioxidants measured during general anesthesia in free-ranging SSL. We captured, anesthetized and sampled newborn SSL pups at rookeries located in the Aleutian Islands or Gulf of Alaska. Biomarkers analyzed for oxidative stress included 4-hydroxynenonal and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (4-HNE and TBARS, respectively, lipid peroxidation), protein carbonyl content (PCC, protein oxidation), and GPx activity as a key indicator for Se-dependent antioxidant defense levels. We found a negative association between TBARS and [TSe], and SSL with low [TSe] had higher concentrations of 4-HNE than those with intermediate [TSe]. These results suggest that SSL with lower [TSe] experience increased lipid peroxidation potentially associated with [THg] status.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - C: Toxicology and Pharmacology, Volume 235, September 2020,