The periodic table of ribonucleotide reductases

Terry B. Ruskoski, Amie K. Boal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In most organisms, transition metal ions are necessary cofactors of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), the enzyme responsible for biosynthesis of the 20-deoxynucleotide building blocks of DNA. The metal ion generates an oxidant for an active site cysteine (Cys), yielding a thiyl radical that is necessary for initiation of catalysis in all RNRs. Class I enzymes, widespread in eukaryotes and aerobic microbes, share a common requirement for dioxygen in assembly of the active Cys oxidant and a unique quaternary structure, in which the metallo- or radical-cofactor is found in a separate subunit, β, from the catalytic α subunit. The first class I RNRs, the class Ia enzymes, discovered and characterized more than 30 years ago, were found to use a diiron(III)-tyrosyl-radical Cys oxidant. Although class Ia RNRs have historically served as the model for understanding enzyme mechanism and function, more recently, remarkably diverse bioinorganic and radical cofactors have been discovered in class I RNRs from pathogenic microbes. These enzymes use alternative transition metal ions, such as manganese, or posttranslationally installed tyrosyl radicals for initiation of ribonucleotide reduction. Here we summarize the recent progress in discovery and characterization of novel class I RNR radical-initiating cofactors, their mechanisms of assembly, and how they might function in the context of the active class I holoenzyme complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101137
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'The periodic table of ribonucleotide reductases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this