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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2004 Apr 1;48(1):15-27. doi: 10.1016/j.femsec.2003.12.016.

The microbial arsenic cycle in Mono Lake, California.

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US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.


Significant concentrations of dissolved inorganic arsenic can be found in the waters of a number of lakes located in the western USA and in other water bodies around the world. These lakes are often situated in arid, volcanic terrain. The highest concentrations of arsenic occur in hypersaline, closed basin soda lakes and their remnant brines. Although arsenic is a well-known toxicant to eukaryotes and prokaryotes alike, some prokaryotes have evolved biochemical mechanisms to exploit arsenic oxyanions (i.e., arsenate and arsenite); they can use them either as an electron acceptor for anaerobic respiration (arsenate), or as an electron donor (arsenite) to support chemoautotrophic fixation of CO(2) into cell carbon. Unlike in freshwater or marine ecosystems, these processes may assume quantitative significance with respect to the carbon cycle in arsenic-rich soda lakes. For the past several years our research has focused on the occurrence and biogeochemical manifestations of these processes in Mono Lake, a particularly arsenic-rich environment. Herein we review some of our findings concerning the biogeochemical arsenic cycle in this lake, with the hope that it may broaden the understanding of the influence of microorganisms upon the speciation of arsenic in more common, less "extreme" environments, such as drinking water aquifers.

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