Comparison of arsenic acid with phosphoric acid in the interaction with a water molecule and an alkali/alkaline-earth metal cation

J Phys Chem A. 2011 Oct 20;115(41):11355-61. doi: 10.1021/jp2051245. Epub 2011 Sep 16.


Recently, Wolfe-Simon has discovered a bacterium which is able to survive using arsenic(V) rather than phosphorus(V) in its DNA. Thus it is important to investigate some important structural and chemical similarities and dissimilarities between phosphate and arsenate. We compared the monohydrated structures and the alkali/alkaline-earth metal (Na(+), K(+), Mg(2+) and Ca(2+)) complexes of the arsenic acid/anions with those of the phosphoric acid/anions [i.e., H(m)PO(4)(-(3-m)) vs H(m)AsO(4)(-(3-m)) (m = 1-3)]. We carried out geometry optimization along with harmonic frequency calculations using ab initio calculations. Despite the increased van der Waals radius of As, the hydrated structures of both P and As systems show very close similarity (within 0.25 Å in the P/As···O(water) distance and within a few kJ/mol in binding energy) because of the increased induction energies by more polar arsenic acid/anons and slightly increased dispersion energy by a larger size of the As atom. In the metal complexes, the arsenic acid has a slightly larger binding distance (by 0.07-1.0 Å) and weaker binding energy because the As(V) ion has a slightly larger radius than the P(V) ion, and the electrostatic interaction is the dominating feature in these systems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arsenates / chemistry*
  • Cations / chemistry
  • Metals, Alkali / chemistry*
  • Metals, Alkaline Earth / chemistry*
  • Phosphoric Acids / chemistry*
  • Quantum Theory
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Arsenates
  • Cations
  • Metals, Alkali
  • Metals, Alkaline Earth
  • Phosphoric Acids
  • Water
  • phosphoric acid
  • arsenic acid