Teaching the chemical elements in biochemistry: Elemental biology and metallomics

Wolfgang Maret*, Philip Blower

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
174 Downloads (Pure)


Biochemistry primarily focuses on the non-metal chemical elements carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus in the four groups of building blocks (sugars, lipids, amino acids, and nucleotides) and the corresponding macromolecules. However, at least 10 essential chemical elements of life are metals. This article discusses the consequences of such a bias, presents current knowledge that over 20 chemical elements are required for life, and makes a case for—and suggests benefits of—teaching elemental biology alongside molecular biology and biochemistry, and inorganic chemistry in addition to organic chemistry. A relatively new interdisciplinary field, metallomics, has the potential to be a platform for integration when added to glycomics, lipidomics, proteomics, and genomics. It would fill a major gap in contemporary education, be relevant for many areas of science, and facilitate the teaching of important principles of chemistry in the biological sciences, thus helping students to gain a broader understanding of life processes from the molecular to the systemic biology level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Early online date26 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • bioelements
  • biometals
  • chemical elements


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