Despite the global significance of chlorophylls and other modified tetrapyrroles, many aspects of their biosynthetic pathways are poorly understood. A key enzyme at the branch point between the haem and chlorophyll pathways, magnesium chelatase, couples the free energy of ATP hydrolysis to the insertion of magnesium into porphyrin, a process that is likely to be mediated through protein conformational changes. Conclusions from recent structural and functional studies of individual subunits are combined to provide a mechanistic outline of the full magnesium chelatase complex. Gathering further information presents a considerable challenge, and recent steps towards this goal will be introduced.

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