Arsenic is not stored as arsenitephytochelatin complexes in the seaweeds Fucus spiralis and Hizikia fusiforme

B. Alan Wood, Shinichi Miyashita, Toshikazu Kaise, Andrea Raab, Andrew A. Meharg, Jörg Feldmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental context Seaweeds hyperaccumulate the toxic metalloid arsenic, but seemingly achieve detoxification by transformation to arsenosugars. The edible seaweed hijiki is a notable exception because it contains high levels of toxic arsenate and arsenite. Terrestrial plants detoxify arsenic by forming arsenitephytochelatin complexes. The hypothesis that seaweeds also synthesise phytochelatins to bind arsenite as a means of detoxification before arsenosugar synthesis is tested in this investigation. Abstract Phytochelatins (PCs), generic structure [-Glu-Cys]n-Gly, are peptides synthesised by terrestrial plants to bind toxic metal(loid)s such as cadmium and arsenic. Seaweeds are arsenic hyperaccumulators, seemingly achieving detoxification via arsenosugar biosynthesis. Whether seaweeds synthesise PCs to aid detoxification during arsenic exposure is unknown. Hizikia fusiforme (hijiki) and Fucus spiralis were used as model seaweeds: the former is known for its large inorganic arsenic concentration, whereas the latter contains mainly arsenosugars. F. spiralis was exposed to 0, 1 and 10mgL -1 arsenate solutions for 24h, whereas hijiki was analysed fresh. All samples contained As III, glutathione and reduced PC 2, identified using HPLC-ICP-MS/ES-MS. Although hijiki contained no As IIIPC complexes, arsenate exposed F. spiralis generated traces of numerous arsenic compounds that might be As IIIGS or As IIIPC 2 complexes. As IIIPC complexes seem not to be a principal storage form for long-term arsenic storage within seaweeds. However, 40 times higher glutathione concentrations were found in hijiki than F. spiralis, which may explain how hijiki deals with its high inorganic arsenic burden.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-43
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • arsenosugars
  • detoxification
  • hijiki.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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