Metals in the service of life

Project leader

Funding source

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2013
End date: 31/12/2017
Funding: 7500000 SEK


Metals are involved in many of the basic chemical processes that occur in living organisms. Martin Högbom will conduct detailed studies of how metals can impact life.

Special proteins called enzymes control the majority of all the chemical reactions that go on in a living organism. Thousands of enzymes are needed in order to build the complex structure that constitutes a living organism.

In order to get the power needed for some chemical reactions, many of these enzymes use various forms of metals. Ions of iron, copper or zinc, for example, couple to the enzyme and become a helping hand. One example is the red blood protein haemoglobin, which uses iron ions in order to be able to bind oxygen and transport the molecule to all corners of the body.

As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Martin Högbom, a scientist at Stockholm University, will study the teamwork between enzymes and metals. What makes one enzyme bind only iron ions, while another one exclusively binds copper? And how does the connection to the protein affect the character of the metal and its ability to trigger certain chemical reactions? This basic research is important in order to understand some of the most fundamental processes of life.

Last updated on 2017-23-03 at 09:03