Formation, occurrence, significance, and analysis of organoselenium and organotellurium compounds in the environment

Dirk Wattschläger, Jörg Feldmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Among all environmentally-relevant trace elements, selenium has one of the most diverse organic chemistries. It is also one of the few trace elements that may biomagnify in food chains under certain conditions. Yet, the exact chemical forms of selenium involved in the uptake into organisms and transfer to higher trophic levels, as well as the biochemical mechanisms that lead to their subsequent metabolism in organisms, are still not well understood. This is in part due to the analytical challenges associated with measuring the myriad of discrete Se species occurring in organisms. While there are generalized concepts of selenium metabolism, there is a lack of conclusive analytical evidence supporting the existence of many postulated intermediates. Likewise, there is a disconnect between the major selenium species encountered in abiotic compartments (waters, soils, and sediment), and those found in organisms, which renders the qualitative and quantitative description of the bioaccumulation process uncertain. Here, we summarize the knowledge on important selenium and tellurium species in all environmental compartments, and identify gaps and uncertainties in the existing body of knowledge, with emphasis on problems associated with past and current analytical methodology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-324
Number of pages6
JournalMetal Ions in Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Amino acids
  • Bioaceunuilation
  • Natural organic matter
  • Proteins
  • Speciation analysis
  • Volatilization


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