The versatile enzyme system nitrogenase accomplishes the challenging reduction of N2and other substrates through the use of two main metalloclusters. For molybdenum nitrogenase, the catalytic component NifDK contains the [Fe8S7]-core P-cluster and a [MoFe7S9C-homocitrate] cofactor called the M-cluster. These chemically unprecedented metalloclusters play a critical role in the reduction of N2, and both originate from [Fe4S4] clusters produced by the actions of NifS and NifU. Maturation of P-cluster begins with a pair of these [Fe4S4] clusters on NifDK called the P*-cluster. An accessory protein NifZ aids in P-cluster fusion, and reductive coupling is facilitated by NifH in a stepwise manner to form P-cluster on each half of NifDK. For M-cluster biosynthesis, two [Fe4S4] clusters on NifB are coupled with a carbon atom in a radical-SAM dependent process, and concomitant addition of a ‘ninth’ sulfur atom generates the [Fe8S9C]-core L-cluster. On the scaffold protein NifEN, L-cluster is matured to M-cluster by the addition of Mo and homocitrate provided by NifH. Finally, matured M-cluster in NifEN is directly transferred to NifDK, where a conformational change locks the cofactor in place. Mechanistic insights into these fascinating biosynthetic processes are detailed in this chapter.

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