Determination of lipid-soluble arsenic species in seaweed-eating sheep from Orkney

S. Devalla, Jorg Feldmann

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44 Citations (Scopus)


This work is part of an ongoing research study towards an understanding of the complete metabolism of arsenosugars in mammalian organisms when ingesting seaweed, using the North Ronaldsay (NR) sheep as a model organism. We focus on the analysis of only those arsenic species bound to the lipids of the feed (Laminaria digitata), faeces and the tissues of the NR sheep using a novel enzymatic hydrolytic method that is simple and reliable. This rare breed of sheep, found in the remote Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland, live the entire year on the beaches and eat seaweed that is washed ashore (up to 3 kg daily).

Previous studies on arsenic fractionation in muscle, kidney and liver tissues revealed that most of the arsenic is concentrated in the fat fractions of these tissues (muscle fat: 61%; liver fat: 66%; kidney fat: 25%) rather than in the non-lipid fractions. Hence, this study was undertaken in order to determine the arsenic species bound to lipids in the muscle, kidney and faeces of NR sheep and to compare these with the arsenic species bound to the lipids of the L. digitata consumed.

The enzymatic hydrolytic procedure has been successfully employed for the first time to cleave the arsenic species cleanly from the rest of the lipid structure. This makes the arsenic species water soluble and enables their direct determination by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Dimethylarsinic acid (DMAM) and monomethylarsonic acid (MA(V)) were found to be the major hydrolysed arsenic species bound to the kidney and muscle lipids, whereas arsenosugar-1 was found to be the major hydrolysed arsenic species in L. digitata lipids. On the other hand, DMA(V) was found to be the major arsenical obtained after the enzymatic hydrolysis of the faeces lipids. These results seem to suggest that both direct absorption and biotransformation of the absorbed organoarsenicals are the likely reasons for their occurrence and accumulation in the NR sheep tissues. Copyright (C) 2003 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-912
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Organometallic Chemistry
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • arsenosugars
  • sheep
  • seaweed
  • enzymatic hydrolysis determination
  • DIET


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