Standard Article

Bioinorganic Chemistry


  1. R. Bruce Martin

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.200200012

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Martin, R. B. 2006. Bioinorganic Chemistry. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Bioinorganic chemistry focuses on the roles played by noncarbon elements in life processes. Yet, bioinorganic chemistry is inseparable from the general chemistry of life. Carbon itself cycles among the many bioorganic compounds and inorganic carbon dioxide and carbonates. More than 80% of all the carbon in the earth's crust occurs as CaCO3 . About 30% of all enzymes contain metal ion cofactors. The most common metal ion, zinc, appears in over 100 enzymes; iron and copper, in a substantial number; manganese, cobalt, and molybdenum, in a few cases. Selenium appears in the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. Metal ions stabilize nucleic acid polymers, which bear a negative charge on each residue. Though blood is loaded with an array of organic molecules, its main constituent is NaCl and that of intracellular fluids is KCl. Even among the vitamins, a word coined from amines essential to life, the action of vitamin B12 depends upon a cobalt ion. Metal ions and nonmetals other than carbon are intimately and inseparably involved in life processes.


  • Chelate (from Greek claw);
  • Ligand;
  • pH = −log(H+)