High resolution mercury nuclear magnetic resonance (199Hg-NMR) experiments have been performed in order to monitor mercury chemical speciation when HgCl2 is added to water solutions and follow mercury binding properties towards biomembranes or other ligands. Variations of 199Hg chemical shifts by several hundred ppm depending upon pH and/or pCl changes or upon ligand or membrane addition afforded to determine the thermodynamic parameters which describe the equilibria between the various species in solution. By comparison to an external reference, the decrease in concentration of mercury species in solution allowed to estimate the amount as well as the thermodynamic parameters of unlabile mercury-ligand or mercury-membrane complexes. Hence, some buffer molecules can be classified in a scale of increasing complexing power towards Hg(II): EGTA greater than Tris greater than HEPES. In contrast, MOPS, Borax, phosphates and acetates show little complexation properties for mercury, in our experimental conditions. Evidence for complexation with phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), phosphatidylserine (PS) and human erythrocyte membranes has been found. Hg(II) does not form complexes with egg phosphatidylcholine membranes. Interaction with PE and PS model membranes can be described by the presence of two mercury sites, one labile, the other unlabile, in the NMR time scale. In the labile site Hg(PE) and Hg(PS)2 would be formed whereas in the unlabile site Hg(II) would establish bridges between three PE or PS molecules. Calculated thermodynamic data clearly indicate that PE is a better complexing agent than PS. Evidence is also found that complexation with lipids uses at first the HgCl2 species. Interestingly, mercury complexation with ligands or membranes can be completely reversed by addition of decimolar NaCl solutions. Minute mechanisms for mercury complexation with the primary amine of PE or PS membrane head groups are discussed.