Concentrations of total arsenic and individual arsenic compounds were determined in liver, muscle, kidney and blubber of mother and fetus of Dall's porpoises collected from off Sanriku, Japan, in the year 2000 to characterize the placental transfer of arsenic to fetus in cetaceans. Arsenic was detected in all the tissues of Dall's porpoises. Total arsenic concentrations in liver, kidney, muscle and blubber were 0.76, 0.69, 0.35 and 0.55 mu g/g wet wt, respectively, for mother and 0.28, 0.23, 0.26 and 0.07 mu g/g wet wt, respectively, for fetus. In all the tissues, concentrations of total arsenic in mother Dall's porpoise were higher than in fetus. Arsenic speciation revealed that arsenobetaine was the major arsenic compound in liver, kidney and muscle of both mother and fetus. The percentage of arsenobetaine to total arsenic ranged from 76.0 to 91.0% in the tissues. Dimethylarsinic acid, arsenocholine, methylarsonic acid and an unidentified arsenic compound were also detected in tissues of both mother and fetus as minor constituents, whereas tetramethylarsonium ion was not detected in tissues of the fetus. These results suggest that arsenobetaine, dimethylarsinic acid, arsenocholine and methylarsonic acid are transferable from mother to fetus in Dall's porpoises. To our knowledge, this is the first report on placental transfer of arsenic compounds to fetus in marine mammals.
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