Animal Nickel Metabolism

  • Robert P. Hausinger
Part of the Biochemistry of the Elements book series (BOTE, volume 12)


All animals, including humans, are constantly exposed to nickel ion and particulate nickel compounds through the food we eat and the air we breath. A small portion of the ingested nickel is absorbed by cells lining the small intestine, and additional small amounts of nickel are assimilated by pulmonary cells after inhalation. The absorbed nickel ion is systemically transported to all tissues by proteinaceous and low-molecular-weight nickel-binding components in the serum. Although steady-state levels of nickel are fairly uniform in various tissues of the body, when radiolabeled nickel ion is administered to an animal, the metal ion is rapidly accumulated in the kidney. The kidney and urinary tract serve as the major route of elimination for absorbed nickel ion, while nonabsorbed nickel compounds are eliminated in the feces. Cellular internalization of nickel ion can occur by action of metal ion transport proteins, whereas lipophilic nickel complexes appear capable of diffusion into cells, and certain cells can phagocytize nickel particles. Although it remains obscure whether nickel is an essential or even beneficial trace metal ion in humans, low concentrations of nickel do appear to facilitate optimal growth of several animals. The functional roles for nickel in animals, however, are only poorly understood. In contrast, the toxic, carcinogenic, and other harmful effects of certain nickel species have been well documented in various systems. This chapter will describe the metabolic flux of nickel ion in animals, examine the evidence that nickel is essential for animal growth, and detail the harmful effects of nickel compounds on animal cells.


Nickel Concentration Nickel Chloride Nickel Compound Nickel Carbonyl Human Kidney Epithelial Cell 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert P. Hausinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Microbiology and BiochemistryMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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