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Methylmercury (MeHg) is an environmental neurotoxicant that targets the developing nervous system. In an effort to understand mechanisms of MeHg toxicity we have identified candidate genes that confer tolerance to MeHg using a Drosophila model. Whole genome transcript profiling of developing larval brains of MeHg-tolerant and non-tolerant flies has identified Turandot A (TotA) as a potential MeHg tolerance gene. TotA is a secreted humoral stress response factor in Drosophila that is a direct target of conserved innate immunity signaling pathways. Here we characterize TotA expression in newly generated isogenic lines (isolines) of flies derived from our previously established MeHg-tolerant and non-tolerant populations. TotA mRNA transcript and protein expression is seen to be higher in the tolerant isolines than the non-tolerant lines. Elevated TotA expression in the tolerant lines was seen to span all the larval developmental stages pointing toward a difference in the TotA gene regulation between the MeHg tolerant and non-tolerant strains. We show that TotA is most highly expressed in the fat body (liver equivalent) and is selectively upregulated in the fat body of tolerant flies relative to brain and gut tissues. Fat body-specific transgenic expression of TotA invokes MeHg tolerance as seen by enhanced development of flies reared on MeHg food. In addition, cell based assays show that high TotA expressing C6 cells are more tolerant to MeHg than the low TotA expressing S2 cells. Knockdown of TotA in the C6 cells trends toward a reduction in MeHg tolerance. Identification of TotA as a MeHg tolerance gene suggests a role for conserved cytokine/immune signaling pathways in modulating MeHg toxicity. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Cecon T Mahapatra, Matthew D Rand. Methylmercury tolerance is associated with the humoral stress factor gene Turandot A. Neurotoxicology and teratology. 2012 Jul;34(4):387-94

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PMID: 22546818

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