Arsenic compounds with a +3 oxidation state are more toxic than analogous compounds with a +5 oxidation state, for example, arsenite versus arsenate, monomethylarsonous acid (MMAIII) versus monomethylarsonic acid (MMAV), and dimethylarsinous acid (DMAIII) versus dimethylarsinic acid (DMAV). It is no longer believed that the methylation of arsenite is the beginning of a methylation-mediated detoxication pathway. The oxidation of these +3 compounds to their less toxic +5 analogs by hydrogen peroxide needs investigation and consideration as a potential mechanism for detoxification. Xanthine oxidase uses oxygen to oxidize hypoxanthine to xanthine to uric acid. Hydrogen peroxide and reactive oxygen are also products. The oxidation of +3 arsenicals by the hydrogen peroxide produced in the xanthine oxidase reaction was blocked by catalase or allopurinol but not by scavengers of the hydroxy radical, e.g., mannitol or potassium iodide. Melatonin, the singlet oxygen radical scavenger, did not inhibit the oxidation. The production of H2O2 by xanthine oxidase may be an important route for decreasing the toxicity of trivalent arsenic species by oxidizing them to their less toxic pentavalent analogs. In addition, there are many other reactions that produce hydrogen peroxide in the cell. Although chemists have used hydrogen peroxide for the oxidation of arsenite to arsenate to purify water, we are not aware of any published account of its potential importance in the detoxification of trivalent arsenicals in biological systems. At present, this oxidation of the +3 oxidation state arsenicals is based on evidence from in vitro experiments. In vivo experiments are needed to substantiate the role and importance of H2O 2 in arsenic detoxication in mammals.
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