An appraisal of the field of metallomics and the roles of metal ions in biochemistry and cell signaling

Wolfgang Maret*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Humans require about 20 chemical elements. Half of them are essential metal ions. Many additional, non-essential metal ions are present in our bodies through environmental exposures, including in our diet, with functional consequences. Their accumulation is accelerated due to the increasing pollution of soil, air, water and manufacturing processes that employ chemical elements to which we have not been exposed in our evolutionary history. Yet other metal ions are essential for other forms of life, which calls on life scientists to consider the interactions of life processes with most of the chemical elements in the periodic table. Only in this century have attempts been made to integrate specialty disciplines into a science of bioelements called metallomics. Metallomics forms a fifth group when added to the traditional four building blocks of living cells and their areas of investigations, i.e., sugars (glycomics), fats (lipidomics), proteins (proteomics) and nucleic acids (genomics). Neither an understanding of all the essential metals and their interactions nor the functional impacts of the non-essential metals for life, except established toxic elements such as lead, are widely perceived as important in the basic science communities and in the applied sciences such as medicine and engineering. It is a remarkable oversight that this article attempts to address with representative examples.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10846
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number22
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Nov 2021


  • Bioinorganic chemistry
  • Chemical elements
  • Health outcomes
  • Homeostatic control
  • Metal ion signaling
  • Metallomics


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