Structure, function, and formation of biological iron-sulfur clusters

Annu Rev Biochem. 2005;74:247-81. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.74.082803.133518.


Iron-sulfur [Fe-S] clusters are ubiquitous and evolutionary ancient prosthetic groups that are required to sustain fundamental life processes. Owing to their remarkable structural plasticity and versatile chemical/electronic features [Fe-S] clusters participate in electron transfer, substrate binding/activation, iron/sulfur storage, regulation of gene expression, and enzyme activity. Formation of intracellular [Fe-S] clusters does not occur spontaneously but requires a complex biosynthetic machinery. Three different types of [Fe-S] cluster biosynthetic systems have been discovered, and all of them are mechanistically unified by the requirement for a cysteine desulfurase and the participation of an [Fe-S] cluster scaffolding protein. Important mechanistic questions related to [Fe-S] cluster biosynthesis involve the molecular details of how [Fe-S] clusters are assembled on scaffold proteins, how [Fe-S] clusters are transferred from scaffolds to target proteins, how various accessory proteins participate in [Fe-S] protein maturation, and how the biosynthetic process is regulated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / chemistry*
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / genetics
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nitrogenase / chemistry
  • Nitrogenase / genetics
  • Nitrogenase / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins
  • IscA protein, E coli
  • IscU protein, E coli
  • NifU protein, Bacteria
  • nifS protein, Bacteria
  • Nitrogenase