Life Depends on Arsenic?

As Gropper, Smitth and Groff tell it, arsenic “conjures an image of toxicity” unlike any other ultratrace mineral (1), but there are good things that come of arsenic and its story is worth discussion.
Without arsenic, DNA synthesis couldn’t happen. This is because arsenic is needed for normal metabolism. Specifically, the mineral is required for forming and using methyl groups to S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) (1). SAM is used for methylation to form DNA compounds (1).
Arsenic, in fact, may have once been part of DNA itself. The mineral is very similar to phosphorus, which is currently the backbone of nucleic acids. Because this is is so it has been suggested that arsenic may have served as an alternate element early on, although not possible in modern biochemistry (3).
According to scientists Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Paul Davies and Ariel Anbar, there may even be possibility that organisms may still be using arsenic in their DNA today, but simply not yet found (3).
Reference List
1. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2009.

2. Emsley J. Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements. Oxford University Press, 2003.

3. Wolfe-Simon F, Davies PCW, Anbar A. Did nature also choose arsenic? Nature Precedings, Jan 2008.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

One thought on “Life Depends on Arsenic?

  1. But everyone said that arsenic send you right to the tomb, and let me tell you, it's kinda' obvious, i don't know what happened with people, the only thing i put in my body is some viagra online to have love with my wife, but put ''poison'' in your face like that, i don't think so….

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