Biotransformation of arsenate to arsenosugars by Chlorella vulgaris

L. A. Murray, Andrea Raab, Iain J Marr, Jorg Feldmann

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Chlorella vulgaris was cultivated in a growth medium containing arsenate concentration of <0.01, 10, 100 and 1000 mg 1(-1). Illumination was carried out in 12 h cycles for 5 days. The health status of the culture was monitored by continuous pH and dissolved oxygen (DO) readings. Destructive sampling was used for the determination of biomass, chlorophyll, total arsenic and arsenic species. The chlorophyll a content, the DO and pH cycles were not significantly different for the different arsenate concentrations in the culture. In contrast, biomass production was significantly (p < 0.05) increased for the arsenic(V) treatment at 1000 mg 1(-1) compared with 100 mg 1(-1).

The arsenic concentration in the algae increased with the arsenate concentration in the culture. However, the bioconcentration factor decreased a hundred-fold with increase of arsenate from the background level to 1000 mg 1(-1). The arsenic species were identified by using strong anion-exchange high-performance liquid chromatography-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry analysis after methanol/water (1:1) extraction. The majority (87-100%) of the extractable arsenic was still arsenate; arsenite was found to be between 1 and 6% of total extractable arsenic in the algae. In addition to dimethylarsinic acid, one unknown arsenical (almost co-eluting with methylarsonic acid) and three different arsenosugars have been identified for the first time in C. vulgaris growing in a culture containing a mixture of antibiotics and believed to be axenic. The transformation to arsenosugars in the algae is not dependent on the arsenate concentration in the culture and varies between 0.2 and 5% of total accumulated arsenic. Although no microbiological tests for bacterial contamination were made, this study supports the hypothesis that algae, and not associated bacteria, produce the arsenosugars. Copyright (C) 2003 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-674
Number of pages5
JournalApplied Organometallic Chemistry
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • arsenic
  • bioaccumulation
  • alga
  • Chlorella vulgaris
  • arsenosugars


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