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Pure Appl. Chem., 2007, Vol. 79, No. 12, pp. 2351-2366

Metal-specific interactions at the interface of chemistry and biology*

Willie J. G. M. Peijnenburg1 and Martina G. Vijver2

1 National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Laboratory for Ecological Risk Assessment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
2 Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), University of Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands

Metals have complex environmental chemistry. When metals are present at elevated levels, they cause toxicity. Some metals are essential for living organisms, and those metals occur naturally in the environment. The latter aspect has allowed biological species to adapt to long- and short-term variations in metal levels. Chemical speciation, bioavailability, bioaccumulation, toxicity, and mixture effects are key issues in assessing the hazards of metals.
In the present contribution, a global overview is given of the interactions between the chemistry and biology of metals, mostly at the interface of biological and environmental matrices. The environmental chemistry of metals and resulting methods for assessing metal availability are assumed as tokens, and the emphasis is thus on biological processes affecting the fate and effects of metals following interaction of the organism with the bioavailable metal fraction. The overview culminates in linking metal compartmentalization in organisms to bioaccumulation and toxicity.
*Invited contribution to a collection of papers for the IUPAC project 2005-042-1-300 "Chemistry for Biology". Other contributions to the project are published in this issue, pp. 2179-2366.