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The Cellular Metabolism and Systemic Toxicity of Arsenic

Although it has been known for decades that humans and many other species convert inorganic arsenic to mono- and dimethylated metabolites, relatively little attention has been given to the biological effects of these methylated products. It has been widely held that inorganic arsenicals were the species that accounted for the toxic and carcinogenic effects of this metalloid and that methylation was properly regarded as a mechanism for detoxification of arsenic. Elucidation of the metabolic pathway for arsenic has changed our understanding of the significance of methylation. Both methylated and dimethylated arsenicals that contain arsenic in the trivalent oxidation state have been identified as intermediates in the metabolic pathway. These compounds have been detected in human cells cultured in the presence of inorganic arsenic and in urine of individuals who were chronically exposed to inorganic arsenic. Methylated and dimethylated arsenicals that contain arsenic in the trivalent oxidation state are more cytotoxic, more genotoxic, and more potent inhibitors of the activities of some enzymes than are inorganic arsenicals that contain arsenic in the trivalent oxidation state. Hence, it is reasonable to describe the methylation of arsenic as a pathway for its activation, not as a mode of detoxification. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the processes that control the formation and fate of the methylated metabolites of arsenic and of the biological effects of these compounds. Given the considerable interest in the dose–response relationships for arsenic as a toxin and a carcinogen, understanding the metabolism of arsenic may be critical to assessing the risk associated with chronic exposure to this element. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology Elsevier
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