Male weanling Wistar rats received 200 micrograms/ml of mercury (Hg), as HgCl2, in drinking water for 180 days. At the end of the treatment, systemic arterial blood pressure was augmented, cardiac inotropism was reduced, and heart rate was unchanged. Light and electron microscopical studies of the kidney showed a mesangial proliferative glomerulonephritis in about 80% of the glomeruli. Tubular cells showed reduction of the acid phosphatase activity, which was related to functional abnormalities of the lysosomes. In the 24 hour urine samples of the Hg exposed rats, there was slight reduction of kallikrein activity, but evident proteinuria was not present in all samples. Plasma renin activity was reduced, that of angiotensin I-converting enzyme was augmented, and plasma aldosterone concentrations were unchanged. Mercury was accumulated mostly in the kidney of the Hg treated animals; and the content of Hg in the heart was higher than in the brain. These data show that chronic exposure to Hg acts on the kidney with complex mechanisms of toxicity; these contribute to modify systemic haemodynamics.
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