, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 195-204

Microbial transformations of tin and tin compounds

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Summary

The use of organotins for agricultural and industrial purposes and in the marine environment has been increasing steadily for more than 20 years. Recently, reliable methodologies have been developed to permit quantification of individual molecular species of organotins in cultures and in the environment. Particular attention has been given to methyltins which can be formed abiotically and by microorganisms, and to tributyltins which are toxic components of effective antifouling paints. In the aquatic environment tin, tributyltins and other organotins accumulate in the surface microlayer, in sediments, and on suspended particulates. Tin compounds are toxic to a variety of organisms and some aquatic organisms can bioaccumulate them. When tin compounds, particularly di-or tri-substituted tins, enter an ecosystem, a portion of the microbial population is killed. Among the survivors are organisms which can methylate inorganic or organic tins, but the relative contribution of biotic and abiotic mechanisms is not clear. While many details of methylations and demethylations need to be worked out, it is clear that transformations of tins can influence the toxicity, volatility and mobility of tin in natural ecosystems. Tributyltins can be debutylated by microorganisms, and hydroxybutyl tins may be intermediates, as they are in mammalian systems. Little is known of the potential and probable microbial transformations of other economically important organotins, but the transformations should be studied for they may have industrial and environmental importance.