Molybdenum cofactor (Moco) biosynthesis is an ancient, ubiquitous, and highly conserved pathway leading to the biochemical activation of molybdenum. Moco is the essential component of a group of redox enzymes, which are diverse in terms of their phylogenetic distribution and their architectures, both at the overall level and in their catalytic geometry. A wide variety of transformations are catalyzed by these enzymes at carbon, sulfur and nitrogen atoms, which include the transfer of an oxo group or two electrons to or from the substrate. More than 50 molybdoenzymes were identified in bacteria to date. In molybdoenzymes Mo is coordinated to a dithiolene group on the 6-alkyl side chain of a pterin called molybdopterin (MPT). The biosynthesis of Moco can be divided into four general steps in bacteria: 1) formation of the cyclic pyranopterin monophosphate, 2) formation of MPT, 3) insertion of molybdenum into molybdopterin to form Moco, and 4) additional modification of Moco with the attachment of GMP or CMP to the phosphate group of MPT, forming the dinucleotide variant of Moco. This review will focus on molybdoenzymes, the biosynthesis of Moco, and its incorporation into specific target proteins focusing on Escherichia coli. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Metals in Bioenergetics and Biomimetics Systems.
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