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A New Role for Sulfur in Arsenic Cycling

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2008, 00:00 authored by Jenny C. Fisher, Dirk Wallschläger, Britta Planer-Friedrich, James T. Hollibaugh
Sulfur and arsenic often coexist in the environment and share similar microbial redox transformations. We examined the effects of sulfide on aerobic arsenite oxidation in alkaline lake water samples and in laboratory enrichment cultures. Significant arsenite oxidation occurred only in treatments with bacteria present, and production of arsenate was greatly enhanced by the addition of sulfide or thiosulfate. IC-ICP-MS analysis of samples showed that mono- and dithioarsenate formed in arsenite + sulfide amended lake water. Our data indicate that these two thioarsenic compounds are fairly stable in sterile alkaline solutions, but are transformed predominantly to arsenate when bacteria are present. Enrichment culture experiments suggest that sulfur-oxidizing bacteria use free or arsenic-bound sulfur as a growth substrate and directly or indirectly transform arsenite and thioarsenates to arsenate during growth. Increases in cell density resulted in more rapid conversion of arsenite and thioarsenates. The rate and extent of these processes appear to be controlled by the concentration of bacteria and the ratio of reduced sulfur to arsenite present. Sulfur-driven arsenite oxidation and microbial thioarsenate transformation may be important biogeochemical processes in the arsenic cycle of our study site (Mono Lake, CA, USA) and other alkaline environments as well.