Nickel and Its Surprising Impact in Nature

This volume is solely devoted to the vibrant research area surrounding nickel and its complexes and their role in Nature. The book opens with the biogeochemis-try of this element and its release into the environment, which occurs from both natural and anthropogenic sources, whereby atmospheric distribution plays an important role. In the second chapter the impact of nickel on the metabolism of cyanobacteria and eukaryotic plants including deficiency and toxicity is considered, as is the application of nickel hyperaccumulator plants for phytomining and phytoremediation.

Complex formation of nickel(II/III) with amino acids and peptides as well as of nickel(II) with sugar residues, nucleobases, phosphates, nucleosides, and nucleic acids is summarized in Chapters 3 and 4, respectively, by also taking into account intramolecular equilibria and comparisons with related metal ions.

Bioinspired nickel coordination chemistry has flourished in recent years and the resulting synthetic models for the active sites of nickel-containing enzymes are reviewed in Chapter 5. In fact, each of the well-established biological nickel sites is rather unique with respect to its structure and function. Hence, the following eight chapters are individually devoted to the various nickel enzymes which catalyze rather diverse reactions. For example, urease reduces the half life of urea in water from about 3.6 years to a few microseconds, whereas nickel-iron hydrogenases catalyze the heterolytic conversion of dihydrogen into protons and electrons and vice versa. Next, methyl-coenzyme M reductase and its nickel corphin coenzyme F430 in methanogenic archaea are described in detail as are acetyl-coenzyme A synthases and nickel-containing carbon monoxide dehydro-genases. These critical reviews are followed by in-depth considerations on nickel superoxide dismutase, and the nickel-dependent glyoxalase I enzymes. The role of nickel in acireductone dioxygenase and the properties of the nickel-regulated peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase SlyD are discussed next.

Nickel is toxic to cells and therefore the synthesis of nickel enzymes requires carefully controlled nickel-processing mechanisms that range from selective transport of nickel into the cells to productive insertion of nickel into the correct apoproteins. This demanding task is the focus of Chapter 14 which is devoted to the chaperones of nickel metabolism.

The primary colonization and long-term survival of Helicobacter pylori in the hostile gastric niche and the role of nickel in this environmental adaptation is covered in detail in Chapter 15.

Nickel is widely employed in modern industry in conjunction with other metals for the production of alloys for coins, jewellery, and stainless steel; it is also used for plating, battery production, as a catalyst, etc. Workers are exposed to nickel at all stages of the processing of nickel-containing products through air, water or skin contacts. For example, the exposure to airborne nickel-containing particles has long been known to cause acute respiratory symptoms ranging from mild irritation and inflammation of the respiratory system to bronchitis, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis and edema. Another well-known adverse effect is allergic contact dermatitis. The indicated health problems caused by nickel exposure are mediated by an active change in the expression of genes that control inflammation, the response to stress, cell proliferation or cell death. All this and more is covered in Chapter 16. However, the most serious health effects beyond nickel toxicity relate to carcinogenesis; these concerns represent an area of considerable research activity today as is evident from the terminating chapter of Nickel and Its Surprising Impact in Nature.

Astrid Sigel Helmut Sigel Roland K. O. Sigel

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