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J Environ Monit. 2001 Feb;3(1):15-21.

Trace element speciation at cell membranes: aqueous, solid and lipid phase effects.

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School of Animal & Microbial Sciences, The University of Reading, UK.


Biological interest in trace element speciation has tended to be polarised in very different ways according to the concerns of the investigators. Much of the ecological interest has centred on the effects of metal ions in the external environment with the "free metal ion model" dominating discussions of potential toxicity. By way of contrast biochemists have been much more concerned with the stereochemical and kinetic aspects of specificity in metal protein interactions in the cytoplasm. Separating these two sets of interests are the membrane biophysicists whose studies have concentrated on the channel concept. All three groups have tended to ignore speciation onto the solid phase. In the overall biological context, trace element speciation in the cell is more concerned with kinetics and the evolution of specificity of interaction between diverse ligands than with the conditions for equilibrium.

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