Biomethylation of Heavy Metals in Soil and Terrestrial Invertebrates

  • Burkhard KnopfEmail author
  • Helmut König
Part of the Soil Biology book series (SOILBIOL, volume 19)


Heavy metals play a prominent role in the lives of all organisms. They can be essential, as in the cases of iron, manganese, nickel and copper, which are needed to obtain proper enzyme conformation and reactivity. Some heavy metals are toxic to organisms, such as mercury or cadmium. Often, these metals are rarely accessible in their inorganic form. After biological transformation into organometallic compounds, they exhibit increased toxicity and penetration into animal tissue is facilitated. The alkylation mechanisms of metals (especially mercury) performed by aquatic microorganisms have been well documented. The organometallic food chain from fish to humans has also been investigated. However, relatively little data have been published on bioalkylation in terrestrial ecosystems. This contribution will provide an overview of methodologies for the analysis of organometallic species, with special emphasis placed on mercury. It will also summarise data on biomethylation in terrestrial environments.


Inductively Couple Plasma Mass Spectrometry Sewage Sludge Arsenic Species Inorganic Mercury Supercritical Fluid Chromatography 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Prof. Dr. K.G. Heumann/Prof. Dr. Nicolas H. Bings (Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, University Mainz), Prof. Dr. Michael Kersten (Institute for Geosciences) for providing the GC-AFD facility and Dr. H. Hertel (BAM, Berlin) for supplying us with termites. We are especially grateful to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for its financial support of this work within the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg “Trace Analysis of Elemental Species: Method Developments and Applications”.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Microbiology and Wine ResearchJohannes Gutenberg-UniversityMainzGermany

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