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Determination of monomethylarsonous acid, a key arsenic methylation intermediate, in human urine.

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
Publication Date
  • Research Article


In this study we report on the finding of monomethylarsonous acid [MMA(III)] in human urine. This newly identified arsenic species is a key intermediate in the metabolic pathway of arsenic biomethylation, which involves stepwise reduction of pentavalent to trivalent arsenic species followed by oxidative addition of a methyl group. Arsenic speciation was carried out using ion-pair chromatographic separation of arsenic compounds with hydride generation atomic fluorescence spectrometry detection. Speciation of the inorganic arsenite [As(III)], inorganic arsenate [As(V)], monomethylarsonic acid [MMA(V)], dimethylarsinic acid [DMA(V)], and MMA(III) in a urine sample was complete in 5 min. Urine samples collected from humans before and after a single oral administration of 300 mg sodium 2,3-dimercapto-1-propane sulfonate (DMPS) were analyzed for arsenic species. MMA(III) was found in 51 out of 123 urine samples collected from 41 people in inner Mongolia 0-6 hr after the administration of DMPS. MMA(III )in urine samples did not arise from the reduction of MMA(V) by DMPS. DMPS probably assisted the release of MMA(III) that was formed in the body. Along with the presence of MMA(III), there was an increase in the relative concentration of MMA(V) and a decrease in DMA(V) in the urine samples collected after the DMPS ingestion.

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