Metal of The Month: Molybdenum

Molybdenite is the main source of molybdenum

April’s metal of the month is molybdenum, a strong and silvery metal able to withstand extremely high temperatures without changing its shape, expanding or softening significantly.

Molybdenum does not occur as a free metal on Earth but is found in various oxidation states in minerals and is thought to be the 25th most abundant element in the oceans. The main source of this element is the ore molybdenite and most of its production is as a by-product of copper production.

Molybdenum has the symbol Mo and atomic number 42

Currently, the main use of molybdenum is in manufacturing. Due to its relative strength and heat resistance it is also used by both the military and in space exploration. Most of the world production of molybdenum is converted into molybdenum disulfide, a lubricant additive used in aircrafts and space vehicles.

Molybdenum is extremely important for plants and animals and is an essential component of the enzyme nitrogenase which converts the atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. Leguminous plants use the nitrogen-fixing enzyme nitrogenase and molybdenum is found in legumes, lentils and grains.

Molybdenum is found in legumes, lentils and grains

In humans, although toxic in other than small quantities, molybdenum is important for chemical reactions such as processing amino acids and converting purines in uric acid, an antioxidant important to protect cells from oxidative damage. The average human takes in about 0.3 grammes a day and stores about 5 milligrammes in the body.

Molybdenum deficiencies are rare, but some cases of molybdenum cofactor deficiency and deficiency of molybdenum due to total parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding) have been reported. These types of deficiencies result in high levels of sulfite and urate and can cause neurological damage.

If you want to know more about molybdenum, take a look at the papers below and discover all about the latest molybdenum research. These will be free to read until May 27th.

You can also take a look at the RSC Visual Element Periodic Table, and the Chemistry in its Element podcast.

And if you work in the area of molybdenum biology, we hope you will consider submitting your next paper to Metallomics.

Molybdenum disulfide is used as a lubricant for space vehicles

The molybdoproteome of Starkeya novella – insights into the diversity and functions of molybdenum containing proteins in response to changing growth conditions
Ulrike Kappler and   Amanda S. Nouwens
Metallomics, 2013,5, 325-334
DOI: 10.1039/C2MT20230A

Effects of large-scale amino acid substitution in the polypeptide tether connecting the heme and molybdenum domains on catalysis in human sulfite oxidase
Kayunta Johnson-Winters, Anna R. Nordstrom, Amanda C. Davis, Gordon Tollin and   John H. Enemark
Metallomics, 2010,2, 766-770
DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00021C

Molybdenum metabolism in the alga Chlamydomonas stands at the crossroad of those in Arabidopsis and humans
Ángel Llamas, Manuel Tejada-Jiménez, Emilio Fernández and   Aurora Galvána
Metallomics, 2011,3, 578-590
DOI: 10.1039/C1MT00032B

Molybdenum can be found in the oceans

A proteome investigation of roxarsone degradation by Alkaliphilus oremlandii strain OhILAs
Peter Chovanec, John F. Stolz and   Partha Basu
Metallomics, 2010,2, 133-139
DOI: 10.1039/B915479E

A survey of arsenic, manganese, boron, thorium, and other toxic metals in the groundwater of a West Bengal, India neighbourhood
Thomas Bacquart, Kelly Bradshaw, Seth Frisbie, Erika Mitchell, George Springston, Jeffrey Defelice, Hannah Dustinc and   Bibudhendra Sarkar
Metallomics, 2012,4, 653-659
DOI: 10.1039/C2MT20020A

Low-molecular-mass metal complexes in the mouse brain
Sean P. McCormick, Mrinmoy Chakrabarti, Allison L. Cockrell, Jinkyu Park, Lora S. Lindahla and   Paul A. Lindahl
Metallomics, 2013,5, 232-241
DOI: 10.1039/C3MT00009E

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