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Thomas, D. Arsenic Methyltransferase. Edition 1, Chapter 1, R. H. Kretsinger, V.N. Uversky, and E. A. Pemyako (ed.), Encyclopedia of Metalloproteins. Springer Berlin - Heidelberg, , Germany, 1:138-143, (2013).
This ms is useful to the general scientific field as it integrates data from diverse organisms to provide a coherent view of the molecular aspects of arsenic methylation. Understanding the basis of arsenic methylation by environmental organisms may be of value to risk assessors as they shape a broader vision of risk assessment for this metalloid which considers the contribution of arsenic in foodstuffs on aggregate exposure.
The metalloid arsenic enters the environment by natural processes (volcanic activity, weathering of rocks) and by human activity (mining, smelting, herbicides and pesticides). Although arsenic has been exploited for homicidal and suicidal purposes since antiquity, its significance as a public health issue arises from its potency as a human carcinogen. In addition, considerable epidemiological evidence shows that chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic contributes to increased risk of other diseases (Hughes et al., 2011). Interest in the biomethylation of arsenic as a factor in its environmental fate and its actions as a toxicant and a carcinogen originated in the 19th century with observations that microorganisms converted inorganic arsenicals used as wallpaper pigments into Gosio gas, a volatile species that is released into the atmosphere and that Gosio gas was trimethylarsine. Subsequent detection of methylated arsenicals in natural waters and in human urine suggested that biomethylation of arsenic was a widespread phenomenon (Cullen, 2008).