Iron-sulfur clusters are prosthetic groups that are assembled on their acceptor proteins through a complex machine centered on a desulfurase enzyme and a transient scaffold protein. Studies to establish the mechanism of cluster formation have so far used either in vitro or in vivo methods, which have often resulted in contrasting or non-comparable results. The authors suggest an alternative approach to study the enzymatic reaction, that is based on the combination of genetically engineered bacterial strains depleted of specific components, and the detection of the enzymatic kinetics in cellular extracts through metabolomics. These data prove that this ex vivo approach closely reproduces the in vitro results while retaining the full complexity of the system. The study demonstrates that co-presence of bacterial frataxin and iron is necessary to observe an inhibitory effect of the enzymatic activity of bacterial frataxin. This approach provides a new powerful tool for the study of iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis.

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