Monomethylarsonous acid (MMA(III)) is more toxic than arsenite in Chang human hepatocytes

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2000 Mar 1;163(2):203-7. doi: 10.1006/taap.1999.8872.


Methylation has been considered to be the primary detoxication pathway of inorganic arsenic. Inorganic arsenic is methylated by many, but not all animal species, to monomethylarsonic acid (MMA(V)), monomethylarsonous acid (MMA(III)), and dimethylarsinic acid (DMA(V)). The As(V) derivatives have been assumed to produce low toxicity, but the relative toxicity of MMA(III) remains unknown. In vitro toxicities of arsenate, arsenite, MMA(V), MMA(III), and DMA(V) were determined in Chang human hepatocytes. Leakage of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and intracellular potassium (K(+)) and mitochondrial metabolism of the tetrazolium salt XTT were used to assess cytotoxicity due to arsenic exposure. The mean LC50 based on LDH assays in phosphate media was 6 microM for MMA(III) and 68 microM for arsenite. Using the assay for K(+) leakage in phosphate media, the mean LC50 was 6.3 microM for MMA(III) and 19.8 microM for arsenite. The mean LC50 based on the XTT assay in phosphate media was 13.6 microM for MMA(III) and 164 microM for arsenite. The results of the three cytotoxicity assays (LDH, K(+), and XTT) reveal the following order of toxicity in Chang human hepatocytes: MMA(III) > arsenite > arsenate > MMA(V) = DMA(V). Data demonstrate that MMA(III), an intermediate in inorganic arsenic methylation, is highly toxic and again raises the question as to whether methylation of inorganic arsenic is a detoxication process.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenates / toxicity*
  • Arsenic / chemistry
  • Arsenites / toxicity*
  • Cacodylic Acid / chemistry
  • Cacodylic Acid / toxicity
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / analysis
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Organometallic Compounds / toxicity*
  • Potassium / analysis


  • Arsenates
  • Arsenites
  • Culture Media
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • monomethylarsonous acid
  • Cacodylic Acid
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Arsenic
  • Potassium