Transition metals are essential components of important biomolecules, and their homeostasis is central to many life processes. Transmembrane transporters are key elements controlling the distribution of metals in various compartments. However, due to their chemical properties, transition elements require transporters with different structural-functional characteristics from those of alkali and alkali earth ions. Emerging structural information and functional studies have revealed distinctive features of metal transport. Among these are the relevance of multifaceted events involving metal transfer among participating proteins, the importance of coordination geometry at transmembrane transport sites, and the presence of the largely irreversible steps associated with vectorial transport. Here, we discuss how these characteristics shape novel transition metal ion transport models.
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