Antimony biomethylation by Scopulariopsis brevicaulis: characterization of intermediates and the methyl donor

Chemosphere. 2000 Dec;41(11):1717-25. doi: 10.1016/s0045-6535(00)00063-1.


The filamentous fungus Scopulariopsis brevicaulis biomethylates inorganic antimony(III) compounds to trimethylstibine, that can be detected in culture headspace gases. Dimethylantimony and trimethylantimony species have been detected in the medium of these cultures, but the origin of these species was controversial. We now show that the dimethylantimony species is a true intermediate on the pathway to trimethylstibine (rather than arising from trimethylstibine oxidation or as an analytical artifact) because no dimethylantimony species are formed on trimethylstibine oxidation, as determined by using HG-GC-AAS. Furthermore, the dimethylantimony and trimethylantimony species can be separated, by using anion exchange chromatography, and so the dimethylantimony species is not an analytical artifact, formed during the hydride generation process. The antimony biomethylation mechanism was further probed by measuring incorporation of the methyl group, from 13CD3-L-methionine and CD3-D-methionine, into methylantimony species and, for comparison, into methylarsenic species. The percentage incorporation of the labeled methyl group into methylarsenic and methylantimony species was not significantly different. The incorporation from 13CD3-L-methionine was 54% and 47% for antimony and arsenic, respectively. The incorporation from CD3-D-methionine was 20% and 16% for antimony and arsenic, respectively. It appears that the biomethylation of arsenic and antimony occur by very similar, perhaps identical, mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anions
  • Antimony / metabolism*
  • Arsenic / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Ion Exchange
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Methylation
  • Mitosporic Fungi / metabolism*
  • Organometallic Compounds / metabolism


  • Anions
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • trimethylantimony
  • Antimony
  • Methionine
  • Arsenic