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In chemistry an arsenite is a chemical compound containing an arsenic oxoanion where arsenic has oxidation state +3. Examples of arsenites include sodium arsenite which contains a polymeric linear anion, [AsO2]n, silver arsenite, Ag3AsO3, which contains the trigonal, AsO33− anion, sometimes called ortho-arsenite.[1]
Arsenite contrasts to the corresponding anions of the lighter members of group 15, phosphite which has the structure HPO32− and nitrite, NO2 which is bent.[1] Sodium arsenite is used in the water gas shift reaction to remove carbon dioxide.

Note that in fields that commonly deal with groundwater chemistry, arsenite commonly refers to As2O3.

Bacteria using and generating arsenate

Some species of bacteria obtain their energy by oxidizing various fuels while reducing arsenates to form arsenites. The enzymes involved are known as arsenate reductases.

In 2008, bacteria were discovered that employ a version of photosynthesis with arsenites as electron donors, producing arsenates (just like ordinary photosynthesis uses water as electron donor, producing molecular oxygen). The researchers conjectured that historically these photosynthesizing organisms produced the arsenates that allowed the arsenate-reducing bacteria to thrive.[2]

In humans, arsenite inhibits Pyruvate Dehydrogenase (PDH complex) in the pyruvate  acetyl CoA reaction and binds to the SH group of Lipoamide, a participant coenzyme. In this inhibition, arsenite poisoning affects energy production in the body.


  1. ^ a b Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, A. (1997), Chemistry of the Elements (2nd ed.), Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, ISBN 0-7506-3365-4  
  2. ^ Arsenic-loving bacteria rewrite photosynthesis rules, Chemistry World, 15 August 2008

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Simple English

Arsenite is an ion. Its chemical formula can be either AsO33- or AsO2-. It has arsenic in its +3 oxidation state. All arsenites are highly toxic. Sodium arsenite is an example. Arsenites are salts of arsenous acid.

Sometimes arsenite means arsenic trioxide, especially in groundwater chemistry (chemistry dealing with the properties of water in the ground)

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