Life and death with arsenic

Barry P. Rosen, A. Abdul Ajees, Timothy R. Mcdermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Arsenic and phosphorus are group 15 elements with similar chemical properties. Is it possible that arsenate could replace phosphate in some of the chemicals that are required for life? Phosphate esters are ubiquitous in biomolecules and are essential for life, from the sugar phosphates of intermediary metabolism to ATP to phospholipids to the phosphate backbone of DNA and RNA. Some enzymes that form phosphate esters catalyze the formation of arsenate esters. Arsenate esters hydrolyze very rapidly in aqueous solution, which makes it improbable that phosphorous could be completely replaced with arsenic to support life. Studies of bacterial growth at high arsenic:phosphorus ratios demonstrate that relatively high arsenic concentrations can be tolerated, and that arsenic can become involved in vital functions in the cell, though likely much less efficiently than phosphorus. Recently Wolfe-Simon et al. 1 reported the isolation of a microorganism that they maintain uses arsenic in place of phosphorus for growth. Here, we examine and evaluate their data and conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-357
Number of pages8
JournalBioEssays
Volume33
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01-05-2011

Fingerprint

Arsenic
Phosphorus
Esters
Phosphates
Sugar Phosphates
Biomolecules
Growth
Metabolism
Microorganisms
Chemical properties
Phospholipids
Adenosine Triphosphate
RNA
DNA
Enzymes
arsenic acid

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Rosen, B. P., Ajees, A. A., & Mcdermott, T. R. (2011). Life and death with arsenic. BioEssays, 33(5), 350-357. https://doi.org/10.1002/bies.201100012
Rosen, Barry P. ; Ajees, A. Abdul ; Mcdermott, Timothy R. / Life and death with arsenic. In: BioEssays. 2011 ; Vol. 33, No. 5. pp. 350-357.
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Rosen, BP, Ajees, AA & Mcdermott, TR 2011, 'Life and death with arsenic', BioEssays, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 350-357. https://doi.org/10.1002/bies.201100012

Life and death with arsenic. / Rosen, Barry P.; Ajees, A. Abdul; Mcdermott, Timothy R.

In: BioEssays, Vol. 33, No. 5, 01.05.2011, p. 350-357.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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