Correlations between mercury concentration, and stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen of amino acids in scalp hair from whale meat eaters and heavy fish eaters

Endo, T.; Ogasawara, H.; Hayasaka, M.; Hotta, Y.; Kimura, O.; Petzke, K.J.

Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry Rcm 31(9): 745-752


ISSN/ISBN: 1097-0231
PMID: 28225553
DOI: 10.1002/rcm.7841
Accession: 059557469

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As mercury (Hg) accumulation in marine animals generally increases with increased trophic level (δ15 N values) through the food web, predators accumulate higher levels of Hg. The main source of human Hg intake is the consumption of fish and other marine animals, and Hg concentration in scalp hair is the preferred marker for evaluating consumption of marine animals. Difference in δ15 N values between trophic and source amino acids of human consumers could enable us to estimate the trophic level of the consumer without knowing the bulk δ15 N value of their prey. We measured the δ15 N values of 15 amino acids in scalp hair from heavy fish eaters and whale meat eaters using isotope ratio monitoring gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (irm-GC/MS), and investigated the correlations between Hg concentrations in the hair and the δ15 N values of the individual constituent amino acids. The δ15 N values for all trophic amino acids (Ala, Val, Leu, Ile, Pro, Asx and Glx) increased with increases in Hg concentration (p < 0.01), with the highest correlation being with Glx (R2  = 0.725). In contrast, the δ15 N value for Thr decreased with increases in Hg concentration (R2  = 0.663, p < 0.01). The difference in δ15 N values between Glx and Thr was positively correlated with Hg concentration, showing the highest correlation coefficient (R2  = 0.773, p < 0.01) among the various combinations for amino acids. The difference in δ15 N values between Glx and Thr appears to be the best proxy for the estimation of Hg concentration in scalp hair. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.