Mechanistic and functional versatility of radical SAM enzymes

Squire J. Booker, Tyler L. Grove

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Enzymes of the radical SAM (RS) superfamily catalyze a diverse assortment of reactions that proceed via intermediates containing unpaired electrons. The radical initiator is the common metabolite S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM), which is reductively cleaved to generate a 5′-deoxyadenosyl 5′-radical, a universal and obligate intermediate among enzymes within this class. A bioinformatics study that appeared in 2001 indicated that this superfamily contained over 600 members, many catalyzing reactions that were rich in novel chemical transformations. Since that seminal study, the RS superfamily has grown immensely, and new details about the scope of reactions and biochemical pathways in which its members participate have emerged. This review will highlight only a few of the most significant findings from the past 2-3 years, focusing primarily on: RS enzymes involved in complex metallocofactor maturation; characterized RS enzymes that lack the canonical CxxxCxxC motif; RS enzymes containing multiple iron-sulfur clusters; RS enzymes catalyzing reactions with compelling medical implications; and the energetics and mechanism of generating the 5′-deoxyadenosyl radical. A number of significant studies of RS enzymes will unfortunately be omitted, and it is hoped that the reader will access the relevant literature - particularly a number of superb review articles recently written on the subject - to acquire a deeper appreciation of this class of enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalF1000 Biology Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 14 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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