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Mechanistic concepts of iron-sulfur protein biogenesis in Biology

Iron-sulfur (Fe/S) proteins are present in virtually all living organisms and are involved in numerous cellular processes such as respiration, photosynthesis, metabolic reactions, nitrogen fixation, radical biochemistry, protein synthesis, antiviral defense, and genome maintenance. Their versatile functions may go back to the proposed role of their Fe/S cofactors in the origin of life as efficient catalysts and electron carriers. More than two decades ago, it was discovered that the in vivo synthesis of cellular Fe/S clusters and their integration into polypeptide chains requires assistance by complex proteinaceous machineries, despite the fact that Fe/S proteins can be assembled chemically in vitro. In prokaryotes, three Fe/S protein biogenesis systems are known; ISC, SUF, and the more specialized NIF. The former two systems have been transferred by endosymbiosis from bacteria to mitochondria and plastids, respectively, of eukaryotes. In their cytosol, eukaryotes use the CIA machinery for the biogenesis of cytosolic and nuclear Fe/S proteins. Despite the structural diversity of the protein constituents of these four machineries, general mechanistic concepts underlie the complex process of Fe/S protein biogenesis. This review provides a comprehensive and comparative overview of the various known biogenesis systems in Biology, and summarizes their common or diverging molecular mechanisms, thereby illustrating both the conservation and diverse adaptions of these four machineries during evolution and under different lifestyles. Knowledge of these fundamental biochemical pathways is not only of basic scientific interest, but is important for the understanding of human 'Fe/S diseases' and can be used in biotechnology.

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