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Biological Chemistry

Editor-in-Chief: Brüne, Bernhard

Editorial Board Member: Buchner, Johannes / Lei, Ming / Ludwig, Stephan / Sies, Helmut / Turk, Boris / Wittinghofer, Alfred

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The Essential Role of Mitochondria in the Biogenesis of Cellular Iron-Sulfur Proteins

Roland Lill / Kerstin Diekert / Anita Kaut / Heike Lange / Winfried Pelzer / Corinna Prohl / Gyula Kispal

Citation Information: Biological Chemistry. Volume 380, Issue 10, Pages 1157–1166, ISSN (Print) 1431-6730, DOI: 10.1515/BC.1999.147, June 2005

Publication History

Published Online:


Iron-sulfur (Fe/S) proteins play an important role in electron transfer processes and in various enzymatic reactions. In eukaryotic cells, known Fe/S proteins are localised in mitochondria, the cytosol and the nucleus. The biogenesis of these proteins has only recently become the focus of investigations. Mitochondria are the major site of Fe/S cluster biosynthesis in the cell. The organelles contain an Fe/S cluster biosynthesis apparatus that resembles that of prokaryotic cells. This apparatus consists of some ten proteins including a cysteine desulfurase producing elemental sulfur for biogenesis, a ferredoxin involved in reduction, and two chaperones. The mitochondrial Fe/S cluster synthesis apparatus not only assembles mitochondrial Fe/S proteins, but also initiates formation of extra-mitochondrial Fe/S proteins. This involves the export of sulfur and possibly iron from mitochondria to the cytosol, a reaction performed by the ABC transporter Atm1p of the mitochondrial inner membrane. A possible substrate of Atm1p is an Fe/S cluster that may be stabilised for transport. Constituents of the cytosol involved in the incorporation of the Fe/S cluster into apoproteins have not been described yet. Many of the mitochondrial proteins involved in Fe/S cluster formation are essential, illustrating the central importance of Fe/S proteins for life. Defects in Fe/S protein biogenesis are associated with the abnormal accumulation of iron within mitochondria and are the cause of an iron storage disease.

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