The metabolism of inorganic arsenic oxides, gallium arsenide, and arsine: A toxicochemical review

Dean E. Carter, H. Vasken Aposhian, A. Jay Gandolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


The aim of this review is to compare the metabolism, chemistry, and biological effects to determine if either of the industrial arsenicals (arsine and gallium arsenide) act like the environmental arsenic oxides (arsenite and arsenate). The metabolism of the arsenic oxides has been extensively investigated in the past 4 years and the differences between the arsenic metabolites in the oxidation states +III versus +V and with one or two methyl groups added have shown increased importance. The arsenic oxide metabolism has been compared with arsine (oxidation state -III) and arsenide (oxidation state between 0 to -III). The different metabolites appear to have different strengths of reaction for binding aresenic (III) to thiol groups, their oxidation-reduction reactions and their forming an arsenic-carbon bond. It is unclear if the differences in parameters such as the presence or absence of methyl metabolities, the rates of AsV reduction compared to the rates of AsIII oxidation, or the competition of phosphate and arsenate for cellular uptake are large enough to change biological effects. The arsine rate of decomposition, products of metabolism, target organ of toxic action, and protein binding appeared to support an oxidized arsenic metabolite. This arsine metabolite was very different from anything made by the arsenic oxides. The gallium arsenide had a lower solubility than any other arsenic compound and it had a disproportionate intensity of lung damage to suggest that the GaAs had a site of contact interaction and that oxidation reactions were important in its toxicity. The urinary metabolites after GaAs exposure were the same as excreted by arsenic oxides but the chemical compounds responsible for the toxic effects of GaAs are different from the aresnic oxides. The review concludes that there is insufficient evidence to equate the different arsenic compounds. There are several differences in the toxicity of the arsenic compounds that will require substantial research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-334
Number of pages26
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 15 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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