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Biomarkers of selenium status and antioxidant effect in workers occupationally exposed to mercury.The present observation based research was designed to evaluate the influence of occupational human exposure to metallic mercury (Hg°) vapor on the biomarkers of selenium status involved in the antioxidant defense system. For this purpose we determined Hg and selenium (Se) concentrations in body fluids, the markers of antioxidant effect measured as an activity of Se-dependent enzymes (red blood cell and plasma glutathione peroxidase: GPx1-RBC and GPx3-P), concentration of selenoprotein P in the plasma (SeP-P) and total antioxidant activity in the plasma (TAA-P) in 131 male workers from a chloralkali plant exposed to Hg° and 67 non-exposed males (control group). The mRNA expression levels of glutathione peroxidases (GPX1, GPX3), selenoprotein P (SEPP1), thioredoxin reductase 1 (TRXR1), thioredoxin 1 (TRX1), peroxiredoxins (PRDX1, PRDX2) were also examined in the leukocytes of peripheral blood. Hg concentration in the blood (Hg-B) and urine (Hg-U) samples was determined using the thermal decomposition amalgamation/atomic absorption spectrometry (TDA-AAS) method and Se concentrations in plasma (Se-P) and urine (Se-U) using the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) method. Activities of GPx1-RBC, GPx3-P and TAA-P were determined using the kinetic and spectrophotometric method, respectively. Gene expression analysis was performed using the quantitative Real-Time PCR. The results showed significant higher Hg levels among the Hg°-exposed workers in comparison to control group (12-times higher median for Hg-B and almost 74-times higher median for Hg-U concentration in chloralkali workers). Se-P was also significantly higher (Me (median): 82.85 μg/L (IQR (interquartile range) 72.03-90.28 μg/L) for chloralkali workers vs. Me: 72.74 μg/L (IQR 66.25-80.14 μg/L) for control group; p = 0.0001) but interestingly correlated inversely with Hg-U in chloralkali workers suggesting depletion of the Se protection among the workers with the highest Hg-U concentration. The mRNA level for GPX1, PRXD1 were markedly but significantly higher in the workers compared to the control group. Moreover, concentrations of Hg-B and Hg-U among the workers were significantly positively correlated with the levels of selenoprotein P at both the mRNA and selenoprotein levels. In the multivariate model, after adjusting to cofounders (dental amalgam fillings, age, BMI, job seniority time, smoking), we confirmed that Hg-U concentration was inversely correlated with genes expression of TRXR1. This is the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of occupational exposure of workers to Hg° at both the mRNA and selenoprotein levels, with investigation of fish intake obtained by means of a questionnaire. These findings suggest that exposure to Hg° alters gene expression of the antioxidant enzymes and the level of Se-containing selenoproteins.