Nutritional requirements for boron, silicon, vanadium, nickel, and arsenic: current knowledge and speculation

FASEB J. 1991 Sep;5(12):2661-7.


Definition of specific biochemical functions in higher animals (including humans) for the ultratrace elements boron, silicon, vanadium, nickel, and arsenic still has not been achieved although all of these elements have been described as being essential nutrients. Recently, many new findings from studies using molecular biology techniques, sophisticated equipment, unusual organisms, and newly defined enzymes have revealed possible sites of essential action for these five elements. Based on these findings and the response of animals and/or humans to low intakes of these elements, the following speculations have been presented: 1) Boron has a role that affects cell membrane characteristics and transmembrane signaling. 2) Silicon is necessary for the association between cells and one or more macromolecules such as osteonectin, which affects cartilage composition and ultimately cartilage calcification. 3) Vanadium reacts with hydrogen peroxide to form a pervanadate that is required to catalyze the oxidation of halide ions and/or stimulate the phosphorylation of receptor proteins. 4) Nickel is needed for the CO2-fixation to propionyl-CoA to form D-methylmalonyl-CoA. 5) Arsenic has an important role in the conversion of methionine to its metabolites taurine, labile methyl, and the polyamines. If any of these speculations are found to be true, the element involved will be firmly established as having a nutritional requirement because the body obviously cannot synthesize it. Based on animal findings, the dietary requirement is likely to be small; that is, expressed in micrograms per day.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Arsenic / administration & dosage
  • Arsenic / physiology
  • Boron / administration & dosage
  • Boron / physiology
  • Humans
  • Nickel / administration & dosage
  • Nickel / physiology
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Signal Transduction
  • Silicon / administration & dosage
  • Silicon / physiology
  • Trace Elements* / administration & dosage
  • Trace Elements* / physiology
  • Vanadium / administration & dosage
  • Vanadium / physiology


  • Amino Acids
  • Trace Elements
  • Vanadium
  • Nickel
  • Arsenic
  • Boron
  • Silicon