Synthesis, delivery and regulation of eukaryotic heme and Fe-S cluster cofactors

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2016 Feb 15;592:60-75. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 Jan 16.


In humans, the bulk of iron in the body (over 75%) is directed towards heme- or Fe-S cluster cofactor synthesis, and the complex, highly regulated pathways in place to accomplish biosynthesis have evolved to safely assemble and load these cofactors into apoprotein partners. In eukaryotes, heme biosynthesis is both initiated and finalized within the mitochondria, while cellular Fe-S cluster assembly is controlled by correlated pathways both within the mitochondria and within the cytosol. Iron plays a vital role in a wide array of metabolic processes and defects in iron cofactor assembly leads to human diseases. This review describes progress towards our molecular-level understanding of cellular heme and Fe-S cluster biosynthesis, focusing on the regulation and mechanistic details that are essential for understanding human disorders related to the breakdown in these essential pathways.

Keywords: Fe homeostasis; Fe-cofactor biosynthesis; Fe–S clusters; Heme; Iron.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*


  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins
  • Heme
  • Iron