Dps proteins are the structural relatives of bacterioferritins and ferritins ubiquitously present in the bacterial and archaeal kingdoms. The ball-shaped enzymes play important roles in the detoxification of ROS (reactive oxygen species), in iron scavenging to prevent Fenton reactions and in the mechanical protection of DNA. Detoxification of ROS and iron chaperoning represent the most archetypical functions of dodecameric Dps enzymes. Recent crystallographic studies of these dodecameric complexes have unravelled species-dependent mechanisms of iron uptake into the hollow spheres. Subsequent functions in iron oxidation at ferroxidase centres are highly conserved among bacteria. Final nucleation of iron as iron oxide nanoparticles has been demonstrated to originate at acidic residues located on the inner surface. Some Dps enzymes are also implicated in newly observed catalytic functions related to the formation of molecules playing roles in bacterium–host cell communication. Most recently, Dps complexes are attracting attention in semiconductor science as biomimetic tools for the technical production of the smallest metal-based quantum nanodots used in nanotechnological approaches, such as memory storage or solar cell development.

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