Selenium (Se) and Arsenic (As) are intriguing elements: Se is an essential trace element, but toxic in excess, while As is one of the most toxic elements even in trace amounts. Se and As, although generally present in the environment at low levels, are actively metabolized by microorganisms, a process that has a strong impact on their mobility and bioavailability. Given the scarcity of Se and As on the Earth’s crust, it is puzzling that pathways dedicated to the respiration of their oxyanions have arisen and have been maintained throughout evolution, in the most diverse environments and taxonomic groups. Microbially mediated transformations may modulate the toxicity of these elements and change their mobility and bioavailability, which in turn may affect their translocation and accumulation in plants and hence, the nutritional quality of various crops.
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