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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 2(3)

Commonalities in Metabolism of Arsenicals

Blakely M. Adair A, Stephen B. Waters B, Vicenta Devesa C, Zuzana Drobna D, Miroslav Styblo C D, David J. Thomas A E

A Experimental Toxicology Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA.
B Curriculum in Toxicology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
C Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
D Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
E Corresponding author. Email: thomas.david@epamail.epa.gov
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Environmental Context. Health effects associated with inorganic arsenic include various cancers and increased risk of diabetes. Millions of people in Bangladesh and India are at risk through use of contaminated drinking water. When humans ingest inorganic arsenic, it is rapidly converted to methylated metabolites. Although this methylation process is largely understood, the metabolism of other arsenicals (e.g. arsenosugars to dimethylarsenic) is very unclear. Connections among pathways for metabolism of various arsenicals are now being elucidated. Commonalities and differences in these pathways may be important determinants of the risk associated with exposure to these agents.

Abstract. Elucidating the pathway of inorganic arsenic metabolism shows that some of methylated arsenicals formed as intermediates and products are reactive and toxic species. Hence, methylated arsenicals likely mediate at least some of the toxic and carcinogenic effects associated with exposure to arsenic. Trimethylarsonium compounds and arsenosugars are two other classes of arsenicals to which humans are routinely exposed and there is evidence that both classes are metabolized to produce methylated arsenicals. Here, we review evidence for production of methylated metabolism and consider the challenges posed in unraveling a complex web for metabolism of arsenicals in humans.

Keywords: arsenic — bioavailability — contaminant uptake — metabolism-affecting agents

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