Arsenic-speciation in arsenate-resistant and non-resistant populations of the earthworm, Lumbricus rubellus

Caroline J Langdon, Andrew A Meharg, Jörg Feldmann, Thorsten Balgar, John Charnock, Morag Farquhar, Trevor G Piearce, Kirk T Semple, Janet Cotter-Howells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Arsenic speciation was determined in Lumbricus rubellus Hoffmeister from arsenic-contaminated mine spoil sites and an uncontaminated site using HPLC-MS, HPLC-ICP-MS and XAS. It was previously demonstrated that L. rubellus from mine soils were more arsenate resistant than from the uncontaminated site and we wished to investigate if arsenic speciation had a role in this resistance. Earthworms from contaminated sites had considerably higher arsenic body burdens (maximum 1,358 mg As kg-1) compared to the uncontaminated site (maximum 13 mg As kg-1). The only organo-arsenic species found in methanol/water extracts for all earthworm populations was arsenobetaine, quantified using both HPLC-MS and HPLC-ICP-MS. Arsenobetaine concentrations were high in L. rubellus from the uncontaminated site when concentrations were expressed as a percentage of the total arsenic burden (23% mean), but earthworms from the contaminated sites with relatively low arsenic burdens also had these high levels of arsenobetaine (17% mean). As arsenic body burden increased, the percentage of arsenobetaine present decreased in a dose dependent manner, although its absolute concentration rose with increasing arsenic burden. The origin of this arsenobetaine is discussed. XAS analysis of arsenic mine L. rubellus showed that arsenic was primarily present as As(III) co-ordinated with sulfur (30% approx.), with some As(v) with oxygen (5%). Spectra for As(III) complexed with glutathione gave a very good fit to the spectra obtained for the earthworms, suggesting a role for sulfur co-ordination in arsenic metabolism at higher earthworm arsenic burdens. It is also possible that the disintegration of As(III)-S complexes may have taken place due to (a) processing of the sample, (b) storage of the extract or (c) HPLC anion exchange. HPLC-ICP-MS analysis of methanol extracts showed the presence of arsenite and arsenate, suggesting that these sulfur complexes disintegrate on extraction. The role of arsenic speciation in the resistance of L. rubellus to arsenate is considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-8
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of environmental monitoring : JEM
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Arsenic-speciation in arsenate-resistant and non-resistant populations of the earthworm, Lumbricus rubellus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this