Contribution of arsenic species in unicellular algae to the cycling of arsenic in marine ecosystems


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This review investigates the arsenic species produced by and found in marine unicellular algae to determine if unicellular algae contribute to the formation of arsenobetaine (AB) in higher marine organisms. A wide variety of arsenic species have been found in marine unicellular algae including inorganic species (mainly arsenate-As(V)), methylated species (mainly dimethylarsenate (DMA)), arsenoribosides (glycerol, phosphate, and sulfate) and metabolites (dimethylarsenoethanol (DMAE)). Subtle differences in arsenic species distributions exist between chlorophyte and heterokontophyte species with As(V) commonly found in water-soluble cell fractions of chlorophyte species, while DMA is more common in heterokontophyte species. Additionally, different arsenoriboside species are found in each phyla with glycerol and phosphate arsenoribosides produced by chlorophytes, whereas glycerol, phosphate, and sulfate arsenoribosides are produced by heterokontophytes, which is similar to existing data for marine macro-algae. Although arsenoribosides are the major arsenic species in many marine unicellular algal species, AB has not been detected in unicellular algae which supports the hypothesis that AB is formed in marine animals via the ingestion and further metabolism of arsenoribosides. The observation of significant DMAE concentrations in some unicellular algal cultures suggests that unicellular algae-based detritus contains arsenic species that can be further metabolized to form AB in higher marine organisms. Future research establishing how environmental variability influences the production of arsenic species by marine unicellular algae and what effect this has on arsenic cycling within marine food webs is essential to clarify the role of these organisms in marine arsenic cycling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-50
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2015


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