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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Feb 1;41(3):818-23.

Biotransformation of 3-nitro-4-hydroxybenzene arsonic acid (roxarsone) and release of inorganic arsenic by Clostridium species.

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Departments of Biology, and Chemistry and Biochemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15282, USA.


The extensive use of 3-nitro-4-hydroxybenzene arsonic acid (roxarsone) in the production of broiler chickens can lead to increased soil arsenic concentration and arsenic contaminated dust. While roxarsone is the dominant arsenic species in fresh litter, inorganic As (V) predominates in composted litter. Microbial activity has been implicated as the cause, but neither the specific processes nor the organisms have been identified. Here we demonstrate the rapid biotransformation of roxarsone under anaerobic conditions by Clostridium species in chicken litter enrichments and a pure culture of a fresh water arsenate respiring species (Clostridium sp. strain OhILAs). The main products were 3-amino-4-hydroxybenzene arsonic acid and inorganic arsenic. Growth experiments and genomic analysis indicate strain OhILAs may use roxarsone as a terminal electron acceptor for anaerobic respiration. Electronic structure analysis suggests that the reducing equivalents should go to the nitro group, while liberation of inorganic arsenic from the intact benzene ring by cleaving the C-As bond is unlikely. Clostridium and Lactobacillus species are common in the chicken cecum and litter. Thus, the organic-rich manure and anaerobic conditions typically associated with composting provide the conditions necessary for the native microbial populations to transform the roxarsone in the litter releasing the more toxic inorganic arsenic.

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