Biological Inorganic Chemistry

A New Introduction to Molecular Structure and Function


  • Robert Crichton, Unité de Biochimie, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Biological Inorganic Chemistry: A New Introduction to Molecular Structure and Function, Second Edition, provides a comprehensive discussion of the biochemical aspects of metals in living systems. Beginning with an overview of metals and selected nonmetals in biology, the book then discusses the following concepts: basic coordination chemistry for biologists; structural and molecular biology for chemists; biological ligands for metal ions; intermediary metabolism and bioenergetics; and methods to study metals in biological systems. The book also covers metal assimilation pathways; transport, storage, and homeostasis of metal ions; sodium and potassium channels and pumps; magnesium phosphate metabolism and photoreceptors; calcium and cellular signaling; the catalytic role of several classes of mononuclear zinc enzymes; the biological chemistry of iron; and copper chemistry and biochemistry. In addition, the book discusses nickel and cobalt enzymes; manganese chemistry and biochemistry; molybdenum, tungsten, vanadium, and chromium; non-metals in biology; biomineralization; metals in the brain; metals and neurodegeneration; metals in medicine and metals as drugs; and metals in the environment.
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This book provides an ideal introduction for scientists studying the importance of metals in biology, medicine and environmental sciences and for students following courses in inorganic biochemistry, bioinorganic chemistry or inorganic chemistry. It is designed for:
  Researchers: Because it is clearly written and gives a homogeneous view of the subject Chemistry, biology, microbiology, plant science, medical research (preclinical and clinical) environmental research
  Students: Chemists / biologists following courses or taking an advanced topic in Inorganic chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, biological inorganic chemistry. chemical biology, medicine and environmental sciences
  Consultants: To have access to important information collected in one volume. Pharmacological industry, foodstuffs and agro-industries, environmental applications


Book information

  • Published: February 2012
  • Imprint: ELSEVIER
  • ISBN: 978-0-444-53782-9


"…a fine scholarly text written in a reader-friendly style to describe the various roles of metals in biological systems, human health, and the environment. It also considers the mechanisms and experimental methods for studying biological processes involving metals…I would highly recommend it to all interested biology, and biochemistry students and researchers."--Science Progress, vol 97, issue 1, 2014
"…a fine scholarly text written in a reader-friendly style to describe the various roles of metals in biological systems, human health, and the environment…The material of the second edition of this book has been updated, and new chapters have been included…I would highly recommend it to all interested biology, and biochemistry students and researchers."--Science Progress, February 18, 2014
"Crichton…offers this detailed and extensively illustrated text on inorganic components of biochemistry. Three introductory chapters explain the basic importance of metals in biology and orient biologists to coordination chemistry and chemists to molecular biology, respectively. General features of metal function are covered, including common ligands, their role in metabolism, assimilation and transport, and methods of study."--Reference & Research Book News, December 2013
"At first blush, inorganic biochemistry might sound like an oxymoron, but that is not the case here…Crichton’s book will be useful resource for students or researchers who want to understand the exciting world of inorganic biochemistry."--CHOICE, October 2012, Vol. 50, No. 02
"Robert Crichton has blended an element-centric approach to the subject with a biological thread that is engaging and helpful in exploring the topics in detail. The text is both accessible and detailed, but pitched at undergraduate level."--Chemistry World

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2nd edition

1. An Overview of Metals and Selected Nonmetals in Biology


Why do We Need Anything Other Than C, H, N, and O (together with some P and S)?

What are the Essential Elements and the Essential Metal Ions?

An Idiosyncratic View of the Periodic Table


2. Basic Coordination Chemistry for Biologists


Types of Chemical Bonds

Ionic Bonding

Covalent Bonding

Hard and Soft Ligands

The Chelate Effect

Coordination Geometry

Redox Chemistry

Crystal Field Theory and Ligand Field Theory


3. Structural and Molecular Biology for Chemists


The Structural Building Blocks of Proteins

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Quaternary Structure of Proteins

The Structural Building Blocks of Nucleic Acids

Secondary and Tertiary Structures of Nucleic Acids


Lipids and Biological Membranes

A Brief Overview of Molecular Biology






4. Biological Ligands for Metal Ions


Amino Acid Residues

Low-Molecular-Weight Inorganic Anions

Organic Cofactors

Insertion of Metal Ions into Metalloproteins

Chelatase - The Terminal Step in Tetrapyrrole Metallation

Iron?Sulfur Cluster Formation

More Complex Cofactors - MoCo, FeMoCo, P-clusters, H-clusters, and CuZ Siderophores


5. An Overview of Intermediary Metabolism and Bioenergetics


Redox Reactions in Metabolism

The Central Role of ATP in Metabolism

The Types of Reaction Catalysed by Enzymes of Intermediary Metabolism

An Overview of Catabolism

Selected Case Studies - Glycolysis and the Tricarboxylic Acid Cycle

An Overview of Anabolism

Selected Case Studies: Gluconeogenesis and Fatty Acid Biosynthesis

Bioenergetics - Generation of Phosphoryl Transfer Potential at the Expense of Proton Gradients


6. Methods to Study Metals in Biological Systems


Magnetic Properties

Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Spectroscopy

Mössbauer Spectroscopy

NMR Spectroscopy

Electronic and Vibrational Spectroscopies

Circular Dichroism and Magnetic Circular Dichroism

Resonance Raman Spectroscopy

Extended X-Ray Absorption Fine Structure (EXAFS)

X-Ray Diffraction


7. Metal Assimilation Pathways


Inorganic Biogeochemistry

Metal Assimilation in Bacteria

Metal Assimilation in Fungi and Plants

Metal Assimilation in Mammals


8. Transport, Storage, and Homeostasis of Metal Ions


Metal Storage and Homeostasis in Bacteria

Metal Transport, Storage, and Homeostasis in Plants and Fungi

Metal Transport, Storage, and Homeostasis in Mammals


9. Sodium and Potassium - Channels and Pumps

Introduction - Transport Across Membranes

Sodium versus Potassium

Potassium Channels

Sodium Channels

The Sodium?Potassium ATPase

Active Transport Driven by Na+ Gradients

Sodium/Proton Exchangers

Other Roles of Intracellular K+


10. Magnesium?Phosphate Metabolism and Photoreceptors


Magnesium-Dependent Enzymes

Phosphoryl Group Transfer Kinases

Phosphoryl Group Transfer - Phosphatases

Stabilisation of Enolate Anions - The Enolase Superfamily

Enzymes of Nucleic Acid Metabolism

Magnesium and Photoreception


11. Calcium - Cellular Signalling

Introduction - Comparison of Ca2+ and Mg2+

The Discovery of a Role for Ca2Ăľ Other than as a Structural Component

An Overview of Ca2+ Regulation and Signalling

Calcium Pumps

Intracellular Ca2+ Compartments

Ca2+ and Cell Signalling


12. Zinc - Lewis Acid and Gene Regulator


Mononuclear Zinc Enzymes

Carbonic Anhydrase


Alcohol Dehydrogenases

Other Mononuclear Zinc Enzymes

Multinuclear and Cocatalytic Zinc Enzymes

Zinc Fingers DNA- and RNA-Binding Motifs


13. Iron: Essential for Almost All Life


Iron Chemistry

Iron and Oxygen

The Biological Importance of Iron

Biological Functions of Iron-Containing Proteins


Oxygen Transport

Activators of Molecular Oxygen

Electron Transport Proteins

Iron-Sulfur Proteins

Other Iron-Containing Proteins

Dinuclear Nonhaem Iron Enzymes


14. Copper - Coping with Dioxygen


Copper Chemistry and Biochemistry

Type 1 Blue Copper Proteins - Electron Transport

Copper-Containing Enzymes in Oxygen Activation and Reduction

Type 2 Copper Proteins

Mars and Venus - The Role of Copper in Iron Metabolism


15. Nickel and Cobalt: Evolutionary Relics


Nickel Enzymes

Methyl-coenzyme M Reductase

Cobalamine and Cobalt Proteins

B12-dependent Isomerases

B12-dependent Methyltransferases

Noncorrin Co-containing Enzymes


16. Manganese - Oxygen Generation and Detoxification

Introduction: Mn Chemistry and Biochemistry

Photosynthetic Oxidation of Water - Oxygen Evolution

Mn2+ and Detoxification of Oxygen Free Radicals

Nonredox di-Mn Enzymes - Arginase


17. Molybdenum, Tungsten, Vanadium, and Chromium


Mo and W Chemistry and Biochemistry

Molybdenum Enzyme Families

The Xanthine Oxidase Family

The Sulfite Oxidases and DMSO Reductases

Tungsten Enzymes





18. Non-metals in Biology


The Major Biogeochemical Cycles

Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Phosphorus

The Nitrogen Cycle

Sulfur and Selenium

Chlorine and Iodine


19. Biomineralisation


Principles of Solid-State Biological Inorganic Chemistry

An Overview of the Major Classes of Biominerals

Iron Deposition in Ferritin

Formation of Magnetite in Magnetotactic Bacteria

Calcium-Based Biominerals - Calcium Carbonates in Ascidians and Molluscs

Silica-Based Biominerals


20. Metals in Brain


The Brain and the Blood?Brain Barrier (BBB)

Sodium, Potassium, and Calcium Channels

Calcium and Signal Transduction

Zinc, Copper, and Iron



Concluding Remarks


21. Metals and Neurodegeneration


Metal-based Neurodegeneration

Neurodegenerative Diseases Associated with Metals

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Creutzfeldt?Jakob and Other Prion Diseases

Disorders of Copper Metabolism - Wilson’s and Menkes Diseases and Aceruloplasminaemia


22. Metals in Medicine and Metals as Drugs


Disorders of Metal Metabolism and Homeostasis

Metal-based Drugs

Cisplatin, an Anticancer Drug

Other Metals as Anti cancer Drugs

Metallotherapeutics with Lithium

Contrast Agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


23. Metals in the Environment

Introduction Environmental Pollution and Heavy Metals





Metals as Poisons