Iron–sulfur (Fe–S) clusters are ubiquitous cofactors present in all domains of life. The chemistries catalyzed by these inorganic cofactors are diverse and their associated enzymes are involved in many cellular processes. Despite the wide range of structures reported for Fe–S clusters inserted into proteins, the biological synthesis of all Fe–S clusters starts with the assembly of simple units of 2Fe–2S and 4Fe–4S clusters. Several systems have been associated with the formation of Fe–S clusters in bacteria with varying phylogenetic origins and number of biosynthetic and regulatory components. All systems, however, construct Fe–S clusters through a similar biosynthetic scheme involving three main steps: (1) sulfur activation by a cysteine desulfurase, (2) cluster assembly by a scaffold protein, and (3) guided delivery of Fe–S units to either final acceptors or biosynthetic enzymes involved in the formation of complex metalloclusters. Another unifying feature on the biological formation of Fe–S clusters in bacteria is that these systems are tightly regulated by a network of protein interactions. Thus, the formation of transient protein complexes among biosynthetic components allows for the direct transfer of reactive sulfur and Fe–S intermediates preventing oxygen damage and reactions with non-physiological targets. Recent studies revealed the importance of reciprocal signature sequence motifs that enable specific protein–protein interactions and consequently guide the transactions between physiological donors and acceptors. Such findings provide insights into strategies used by bacteria to regulate the flow of reactive intermediates and provide protein barcodes to uncover yet-unidentified cellular components involved in Fe–S metabolism.

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