Inhibition by methylated organoarsenicals of the respiratory 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenases

Erik R. Bergquist, Robert J. Fischer, Kent D. Sugden, Brooke D. Martin

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Inorganic arsenic that is ingested through drinking water or inhalation is metabolized by biological methylation pathways into organoarsenical metabolites. It is now becoming understood that this metabolism that was formerly considered to be detoxification may contribute as much or more to increasing the toxicity of arsenic. One proposed mode of the toxic action of arsenic and its organoarsenic metabolites is through its binding to proteins and inactivating their enzymatic activity. The classic case has been considered the affinity of the proximal 1,3 sulfhydryl groups of the lipoic acid cofactor of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex for arsenic. A 2:1 stoichiometry of sulfhydryl to arsenic groups has been measured in proteins and arsenical complexes can be synthesized using free d,l-lipoic acid. The relative importance of this site for arsenic binding has come in to question through the use of methylating bifunctional arsenic complexes, and the suggestion that arsenic inhibits the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex indirectly by elevating mitochondrial hydrogen peroxide generation. In order to separate the effects of direct trivalent arsenite toxicity from that of hydrogen peroxide and activated oxygen, we studied the inhibition of the PDH complex under conditions that did not generate hydrogen peroxide but did expose the lipoic acid group in its reduced state to arsenicals. We also studied the effects of arsenicals in the inhibition of the α-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase complex. We found that only trivalent arsenical compounds inhibited the activity of both dehydrogenase complexes and only when the lipoic acid was in its reduced form. Arsenite inhibited both enzyme complexes approximately equivalently while monomethylarsenite inhibited the PDH complex to a greater extent than the KGDH complex - although both complexes were very sensitive to inhibition by this complex. Dimethylarsenite inhibition of both complexes was only observed with longer pre-incubation periods. Cumulative inhibition by the reduced arsenical was observed for all complexes indicating a binding mode of inhibition that is dependent upon lipoic acid being in its reduced state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-980
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Organometallic Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2009


  • Arsenic
  • Lipoic acid
  • Methyl arsenic
  • Pyruvate dehydrogenase
  • α-Ketoglutarate dehydrogenase


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