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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Mar 29;292(2):293-9.

The involvement of molybdenum in life.

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Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QR, United Kingdom.


Quite extraordinarily molybdenum is an essential element in life for the uptake of nitrogen from both nitrogen gas and nitrate, yet it is a relatively rare heavy trace element. It also functions in a few extremely important oxygen-atom transfer reactions at low redox potential. This review poses the question "Why does life depend upon molybdenum?" The answer has to be based upon the availability of the element and on chemical superiority in carrying out the essential tasks. We illustrate here the peculiarities of molybdenum chemistry and how they have become part of certain enzymes. The uptake and incorporation of molybdenum are dependent on its availability, selective pumps, and carriers (chaperones), but 4.5 x 10(9) years ago molybdenum was not available when both tungsten and vanadium or even iron were possibly used in its place. While these possibilities are explored, they leave many unanswered questions concerning the selection today of molybdenum.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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