Iron–sulfur (Fe–S) clusters are protein cofactors of a multitude of enzymes performing essential biological functions. Specialized multi-protein machineries present in all types of organisms support their biosynthesis. These machineries encompass a scaffold protein on which Fe–S clusters are assembled and a cysteine desulfurase that provides sulfur in the form of a persulfide. The sulfide ions are produced by reductive cleavage of the persulfide, which involves specific reductase systems. Several other components are required for Fe–S biosynthesis, including frataxin, a key protein of controversial function and accessory components for insertion of Fe–S clusters in client proteins. Fe–S cluster biosynthesis is thought to rely on concerted and carefully orchestrated processes. However, the elucidation of the mechanisms of their assembly has remained a challenging task due to the biochemical versatility of iron and sulfur and the relative instability of Fe–S clusters. Nonetheless, significant progresses have been achieved in the past years, using biochemical, spectroscopic and structural approaches with reconstituted system in vitro. In this paper, we review the most recent advances on the mechanism of assembly for the founding member of the Fe–S cluster family, the [2Fe2S] cluster that is the building block of all other Fe–S clusters. The aim is to provide a survey of the mechanisms of iron and sulfur insertion in the scaffold proteins by examining how these processes are coordinated, how sulfide is produced and how the dinuclear [2Fe2S] cluster is formed, keeping in mind the question of the physiological relevance of the reconstituted systems. We also cover the latest outcomes on the functional role of the controversial frataxin protein in Fe–S cluster biosynthesis.
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