Microbial transformation of elements: the case of arsenic and selenium Authors J. Stolz Department of Biological Sciences, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, USA P. Basu Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, USA R. Oremland U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, USA Keywords: selenate reductase, arsenate reductase, molybdenum enzymes, microbial evolution Abstract Microbial activity is responsible for the transformation of at least one third of the elements in the periodic table. These transformations are the result of assimilatory, dissimilatory, or detoxification processes and form the cornerstones of many biogeochemical cycles. Arsenic and selenium are two elements whose roles in microbial ecology have only recently been recognized. Known as “essential toxins”, they are required in trace amounts for growth and metabolism but are toxic at elevated concentrations. Arsenic is used as an osmolite in some marine organisms while selenium is required as selenocysteine (i.e. the twenty-first amino acid) or as a ligand to metal in some enzymes (e.g. FeNiSe hydrogenase). Arsenic resistance involves a small-molecularweight arsenate reductase (ArsC). The use of arsenic and selenium oxyanions for energy is widespread in prokaryotes with representative organisms from the Crenarchaeota, thermophilic bacteria, low and high G+C gram-positive bacteria, and Proteobacteria. Recent studies have shown that both elements are actively cycled and play a significant role in carbon mineralization in certain environments. The occurrence of multiple mechanisms involving different enzymes for arsenic and selenium transformation indicates several different evolutionary pathways (e.g. convergence and lateral gene transfer) and underscores the environmental significance and selective impact in microbial evolution of these two elements. Downloads PDF Published 2010-03-10 Issue Vol. 5 No. 4 (2002) Section Review Articles License Submission of a manuscript to International Microbiology implies: that the work described has not been published before, including publication in the World Wide Web (except in the form of an Abstract or as part of a published lecture, review, or thesis); that it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere; that all the coauthors have agreed to its publication. The corresponding author signs for and accepts responsability for releasing this material and will act on behalf of any and all coauthors regarding the editorial review and publication process.If an article is accepted for publication in International Microbiology, the authors (or other copyright holder) must transfer to the journal the right–not exclusive–to reproduce and distribute the article including reprints, translations, photographic reproductions, microform, electronic form (offline, online) or any other reproductions of similar nature. Nevertheless, all article in International Microbiology will be available on the Internet to any reader at no cost. The journal allows users to freely download, copy, print, distribute, search, and link to the full text of any article, provided the authorship and source of the published article is cited. The copyright owner's consent does not include copying for new works, or resale. In these cases, the specific written permission of International Microbiology must first be obtained.Authors are requested to create a link to the published article on the journal's website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: "The original publication is available on LINK at <http://www.im.microbios.org>. Please use the appropiate URL for the article in LINK. Articles disseminated via LINK are indexed, abstracted, and referenced by many abstracting and information services, bibliographic networks, subscription agencies, library networks, and consortia.