This course deals with the chemical reactivity and function of
metal ions in biological systems. This field of research (also
called bioinorganic chemistry or biological inorganic chemistry) is
a relatively new interdisciplinary field, which has connections to
biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, biology, biophysics and
pharmacology. The central purpose is to illustrate how metal ions
are essential for life. Their function may range from the simple
charge balance and structural role to the complex roles in which
they transfer electrons, break bonds, make bonds or control
The course content is dynamic and will reflect the current hot
topics/new discoveries in bioinorganic chemistry. The course will
contain selections of the following subjects:
Biological trace elements, and their abundance and
The coordination chemistry of selected metal ions
Bioinorganic model systems.
Biological metal ion transport mechanisms (uptake,
Metal ion and metal ion complexes’ interaction with proteins
and nucleic acids.
Metal ions in diseases and medicine.
Dioxygen transport proteins.
The coordination chemistry and mechanism of dioxygen activating
iron enzymes such as the heme containing cytochrome P450.
Dioxygen activating copper enzymes (multi-copper oxidases) and
other enzymes in oxygen metabolism such as superoxide dismutase,
peroxidases and catalase.
Nitrogenase and biological dinitrogen fixation.
The bioinorganic chemistry of selected metal ions e.g. zink
(hydrolytic enzymes), molybdenum (sulfite oxidase) and nickel
(urease, NiFe hydrogenase).
Interaction of metal ions with DNA and RNA.
Metalloproteins in biological electron transfer
(photosynthesis, respiration) and the physical nature of electron
Bioinorganic chemistry in biotechnology, environmental context
and in biocatalysis.
Introduction to the theory behind experimental techniques used
for studying metal ions in biological systems. Examples of such
techniques are mass spectrometry (MS), electron paramagnetic
resonance spectroscopy (EPR), circular dichroism (CD), Perturbed
angular correlation spectroscopy, X-ray absorption
The objective of this course is to give the students a
thorough introduction to the function of metal ions in biological
systems and make the students able to analyze the structure and
function of metal ion containing biomolecules.
After the end of this course the students should be able to:
Describe the different functions metal ions can have in biological
Provide an overview over metalloproteins function in biological
Provide an overview of biological selection of important metal
Have theoretical insight into which spectroscopic
techniques that are appropriate for investigating a specific
Discuss why too high and/or too low concentrations of trace
elements can be harmful to living organisms
Be able to find and read primary scientific articles within the
field and explain the content.
Communicate clearly written and orally issues of bioinorganic
Describe the function of metalloenzymes on a molecular basis
Critically evaluate the data presented in scientific articles.
Suggest the possible function of a particular transition metal
ion in a biological molecule when presented with structural
information about its coordination environment.
Predict whether an enzyme catalysed reaction is likely to involve
metal ions and in the positive case, what metal ions are likely.
A textbook on the topic could be: Bertini, Gray, Stiefel
& Valentine Biological Inorganic Chemistry – Structure &
Reactivity, University Science Books, USA + notes and articles.
See Absalon for detailed information on
Basic courses in chemistry
and biochemistry at the respective faculties.
Course in chemistry like: General Chemistry for Life Sciences,
Organic Chemistry for Life Sciences.
Course in biochemistry like: Biochemistry 1 or Chemistry of
Macromolecules, Cofactors and Metal Ions in Biological
The oral examination (with 30 min. preparation) includes a
presentation of the written report.
Exam registration requirements
Presentation and critique of an article in journal club
sessions. Delivery and acceptance of a written project report
(10-15 pages) made throughout the course. The written report should
be handed in at least 1 week before the oral exam.
All aids allowed
7-point grading scale
Same as ordinary exam.
After adjustments the written report can be submitted
again no later than 2 weeks before the