Chemistry (including Biochemistry)/dimethylmercury


Hi. I am terry. I have two questions.
Actually i have no knowlege for chemicals.
First one is for dimethylmercury.we know it is very dangerous neuro toxin. And we saw the article for dartmouth professors death. What i don't understand is that she died after 6 or 8 month after first accident of dropping mercury on hands. No symptom during 3 or 4 months, but when she got the medical check the level of mercury is over 30 or 40times over than LD50 with only one event. ( not chronicle.. i mean acute)
I think it is impossible to survive if we get the metal over LD50, bad symptom could be seen one or two days if we take over LD50.
Pls. Explain me is it really possible to show late death and late symptom eventhough taking 2 or 4 times over than LD 50.
According to my knowledge getting from doctor, it will take only 2 or 3 days for metal to stay in tissue and block the cell normal function and oxidation and change the dna and make the cell die. Then if the total number of cell is alot then people die.   Is it right?
Second question is totally different questions.
Is it possible to synthesize new materials which has the shape of hard solid and could be changed easily to liguid type only by touching? Is it only scientific fiction materials?
Last one is is it possible to make another mercury related organic compound which has the fatal effect to body such as dimethylmercury, I hope it is impossible.
Thank you very much

Hello Terry!

Next time please stick to one question at a time! It makes the expert tired just reading them all!

1) I do not have a good explanation for why the Dartmouth professor did not die right away. It may be that her lifetime of working with mercuric compounds gave her body some practice at cleaning them out. It may also be that there was a second source of mercury that poisoned her chronically that she did not know about; especially if she contaminated something else at home by her shoes or clothes.

An LD50 is the amount that it takes to kill half the test subjects. It is foolish to assume that you will be the lucky one who lives, but sometimes it does happen. All the same, I do not want methyl mercury tea. *smile*

Your doctor is right in that the methyl mercury could kill the cells it touched immediately. However the hand is far away from the heart, and dimethyl mercury does not dissolve well in water. Your blood system, lymph system, and nervous system are all water based, while cell walls are oil based. Whenever possible, the dimethyl mercury would hide in oil.The methyl mercury would have to slowly creep from cell to cell up the arm to hit the vital organs and then the brain before death.

2) It may yet be possible. I do know that liquid crystal displays often use polymers that adopt a light-blocking orientation when an electrical current is applied. If the touching finger has sufficient electrical current to disrupt a solid array by electricity, it may be possible in principle. However, actually doing this is beyond my knowledge in chemistry.

3) Mercuric compounds are typically unhealthy. Like the Dartmouth professor, even great expertise with mercuric compounds is no guarantee against accidents. Because mercury is so dangerous to work with, it is likely that folks who eventually intend others harm will die from their work, hopefully before harming anyone else. It may be possible to invent more dangerous mercury compounds than dimethyl mercury. However, the cost and danger are not usually worth the effort.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

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Trista Robichaud, PhD


No homework questions, especially ones copied and pasted from textbooks. I will answer questions about principles or give hints, but I do not do other's homework. I'm comfortable answering basic biochemistry, chemistry, and biology questions up to and including an undergraduate level of understanding. This includes molecular biology, protein purification, and genetics. My training/inclination is primarily in structural biology, or how the shapes of things affect their function. Other interests include protein design, protein engineering, enzyme kinetics, and metabolic diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. My chemistry weaknesses are that I do not know organic or inorganic synthesis well, nor am I familiar with advanced inorganic reactions. I will attempt quantum mechanics and thermodynamics questions, but primarily as they relate to biological systems. Furthermore, I cannot tell you if a skin photograph is cancerous, or otherwise diagnose any disease. I can tell you how we currently understand the basic science behind a disease state, but I cannot recommend treatment in any way. Please direct such questions to your medical professional.


I hold a PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. I specialize in Biochemistry, with a focus on protein chemistry. My thesis work involved the structure and functions of the human glucose transporter 1. (hGLUT1) Currently I am a postdoc working in peptide (mini-protein) design and enzymology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. I am in Bjorn Steffensen's lab (PhD, DDS), studying gelatinase A and oral carcinoma.

2001 American Association for the Advancement of Science
2007 American Chemical Society
2007 Protein Society
2011 UTHSCSA Women’s Faculty Association

Levine KB, Robichaud TK, Hamill S, Sultzman LA, Carruthers A. Properties of the human erythrocyte glucose transport protein are determined by cellular context. Biochemistry 44(15):5606-16, 2005. (PMID 15823019)
Robichaud TK, Appleyard AN, Herbert RB, Henderson PJ, Carruthers A “Determinants of ligand binding affinity and cooperativity at the GLUT1 endofacial site” Biochemistry 50(15):3137-48, 2011. (PMID 21384913)
Xu X, Mikhailova M, Chen Z, Pal S, Robichaud TK, Lafer EM, Baber S, Steffensen B. “Peptide from the C-terminal domain of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-2 (TIMP-2) inhibits membrane activation of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2)” Matrix Biol. 2011 Sep;30(7-8):404-12. (PMID: 21839835)
Robichaud TK, Steffensen B, Fields GB. Exosite interactions impact matrix metalloproteinase collagen specificities. J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 28;286(43):37535-42 (PMID: 21896477)

Poster Abstracts:
Robichaud TK, Carruthers. A "Mutagenesis of the Human type 1 glucose transporter exit site: A functional study." ACS 234th Meeting, Boston MA. Division of Biological Chemistry, 2007
Robichaud TK, Bhowmick M, Tokmina-Roszyk D, Fields GB “Synthesis and Analysis of MT1-MMP Peptide Inhibitors” Biological Chemistry Division of the Protein Society Meeting, San Diego CA 2010
Robichaud TK; Tokmina-Roszyk D; Steffensen B and Fields GB “Catalytic Domain Exosites Contribute to Determining Matrix Metalloproteinase Triple Helical Collagen Specificities” Dental Science Symposium. UTHSCSA 2011
Robichaud TK; Tokmina-Roszyk D; Steffensen B and Fields GB “Exosite Interactions Determine Matrix Metalloproteinase Specificities” Gordon Research Conference on Matrix Metalloproteinase Biology, Bristol RI 2011

Oakland University, Auburn Hills MI BS, Biochemistry 1998
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester MA PhD, Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology 2001-2008
University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio TX Postdoc, Biochemistry 2009-Present

Awards and Honors
1998 Honors College Graduate, Oakland University
2009 Institutional National Research Service Award, Pathobiology of Occlusive Vascular Disease T32 HL07446
2011 1st Place, Best Postdoctoral Poster, Dental Science Symposium, UTHSCSA, April 2011

Past/Present Clients
Invited Seminars:
Robichaud TK, Fields GB. “Synthesis and Analysis of MTI-MMP Triple Helical Peptide Inhibitors” Pathology Research Conference, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Pathology Department (June 18th, 2010)
Robichaud TK & Hill, B “How To Give A Great Scientific Talk” Invited Lecture, Pathobiology of Occlusive Vascular Disease Seminars, UTHSCSA (Nov 11th 2010), Cardiology Seminar Series, Texas Research Park (Feb 21st, 2011)
Robichaud TK; Tokmina-Roszyk D; Steffensen B and Fields GB “Exosite Interactions Determine Matrix Metalloproteinase Specificities” Gordon-Keenan Research Seminar “Everything You Wanted to Know About Matrix Metalloproteinases But Were Afraid to Ask” Bristol, RI (Aug 6th, 2011)

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