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Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2014;65:125-53. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-050213-035759. Epub 2014 Jan 29.

Iron cofactor assembly in plants.

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John Innes Centre and University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7UH, United Kingdom; email:


Iron is an essential element for all photosynthetic organisms. The biological use of this transition metal is as an enzyme cofactor, predominantly in electron transfer and catalysis. The main forms of iron cofactor are, in order of decreasing abundance, iron-sulfur clusters, heme, and di-iron or mononuclear iron, with a wide functional range. In plants and algae, iron-sulfur cluster assembly pathways of bacterial origin are localized in the mitochondria and plastids, where there is a high demand for these cofactors. A third iron-sulfur cluster assembly pathway is present in the cytosol that depends on the mitochondria but not on plastid assembly proteins. The biosynthesis of heme takes place mainly in the plastids. The importance of iron-sulfur cofactors beyond photosynthesis and respiration has become evident with recent discoveries of novel iron-sulfur proteins involved in epigenetics and DNA metabolism. In addition, increased understanding of intracellular iron trafficking is opening up research into how iron is distributed between iron cofactor assembly pathways and how this distribution is regulated.

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