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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Jul 2;47(13):7147-54. doi: 10.1021/es304977m. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

Arsenic methylation in soils and its relationship with microbial arsM abundance and diversity, and as speciation in rice.

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Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Solid Organic Waste Resource Utilization, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China.


Methylation of arsenic in soil influences its environmental behavior and accumulation by plants, but little is known about the factors affecting As methylation. As speciation was determined in the pore waters of six soils from diverse geographical locations over 54 days of incubation under flooded conditions. The concentration of methylated As (monomethylarsonic acid, MMA, and dimethylarsinic acid, DMA) varied from 0 to 85 μg L(-1) (0 - 69% of the total As in pore water). Two Bangladeshi paddy soils contaminated by irrigation of As-laden groundwater produced large concentrations of inorganic As but relatively little methylated As. Two contaminated paddy soils from China produced a transient peak of DMA during the early phase of incubation. Methylated As represented considerable proportions of the total soluble As in the two uncontaminated soils from the UK and U.S. The copy number of the microbial arsenite methyltransferase gene (arsM) correlated positively with soil pH. However, pore-water methylated As correlated negatively with pH or arsM copy number, and positively with dissolved organic C. GeoChip assay revealed considerable arsM diversity among the six soils, with 27-35 out of 66 sequences in the microarray being detected. As speciation in rice plants grown in the soils generally mirrored that in the pore water. The results suggest that methylated As species in plants originated from the soil and As methylation in soil was influenced strongly by the soil conditions.

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