Iron-sulfur clusters: nature's modular, multipurpose structures

Science. 1997 Aug 1;277(5326):653-9. doi: 10.1126/science.277.5326.653.


Iron-sulfur proteins are found in all life forms. Most frequently, they contain Fe2S2, Fe3S4, and Fe4S4 clusters. These modular clusters undergo oxidation-reduction reactions, may be inserted or removed from proteins, can influence protein structure by preferential side chain ligation, and can be interconverted. In addition to their electron transfer function, iron-sulfur clusters act as catalytic centers and sensors of iron and oxygen. Their most common oxidation states are paramagnetic and present significant challenges for understanding the magnetic properties of mixed valence systems. Iron-sulfur clusters now rank with such biological prosthetic groups as hemes and flavins in pervasive occurrence and multiplicity of function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Catalysis
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Electron Transport
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / chemistry
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Models, Molecular
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Spectroscopy, Mossbauer
  • Sulfur / chemistry
  • Sulfur / metabolism*


  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Sulfur
  • Iron