Comparative genomics of trace element dependence in biology

J Biol Chem. 2011 Jul 8;286(27):23623-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.R110.172833. Epub 2011 May 12.


Biological trace elements are needed in small quantities but are used by all living organisms. A growing list of trace element-dependent proteins and trace element utilization pathways highlights the importance of these elements for life. In this minireview, we focus on recent advances in comparative genomics of trace elements and explore the evolutionary dynamics of the dependence of user proteins on these elements. Many zinc protein families evolved representatives that lack this metal, whereas selenocysteine in proteins is dynamically exchanged with cysteine. Several other elements, such as molybdenum and nickel, have a limited number of user protein families, but they are strictly dependent on these metals. Comparative genomics of trace elements provides a foundation for investigating the fundamental properties, functions, and evolutionary dynamics of trace element dependence in biology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Genomics / trends
  • Humans
  • Metalloproteins / genetics*
  • Metalloproteins / metabolism
  • Metals*
  • Selenocysteine / genetics*
  • Selenocysteine / metabolism
  • Trace Elements*


  • Metalloproteins
  • Metals
  • Trace Elements
  • Selenocysteine