Arsenics as bioenergetic substrates

R. van Lis, W. Nitschke, S. Duval, B. Schoepp-Cothenet

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Feb;1827(2):176-88. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2012.08.007. Epub 2012 Sep 7. Review.

Although at low concentrations, arsenic commonly occurs naturally as a local geological constituent. Whereas both arsenate and arsenite are strongly toxic to life, a number of prokaryotes use these compounds as electron acceptors or donors, respectively, for bioenergetic purposes via respiratory arsenate reductase, arsenite oxidase and alternative arsenite oxidase. The recent burst in discovered arsenite oxidizing and arsenate respiring microbes suggests the arsenic bioenergetic metabolisms to be anything but exotic. The first goal of the present review is to bring to light the widespread distribution and diversity of these metabolizing pathways. The second goal is to present an evolutionary analysis of these diverse energetic pathways. Taking into account not only the available data on the arsenic metabolizing enzymes and their phylogenetical relatives but also the palaeogeochemical records, we propose a crucial role of arsenite oxidation via arsenite oxidase in primordial life. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The evolutionary aspects of bioenergetic systems.

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