A vast array of biological materials, especially bacteria, algae, yeasts and fungi have received increasing attention for heavy metal removal and recovery due to their good performance, low cost and large available quantities. The biosorbent, unlike mono functional ion exchange resins, contains variety of functional sites including carboxyl, imidazole, sulphydryl, amino, phosphate, sulfate, thioether, phenol, carbonyl, amide and hydroxyl moieties. Biosorbents are cheaper, more effective alternatives for the removal of metallic elements, especially heavy metals from aqueous solution. In this paper, based on the literatures and our research results, the biosorbents widely used for heavy metal removal were reviewed, mainly focusing on their cellular structure, biosorption performance, their pretreatment, modification, regeneration/reuse, modeling of biosorption (isotherm and kinetic models), the development of novel biosorbents, their evaluation, potential application and future. The pretreatment and modification of biosorbents aiming to improve their sorption capacity was introduced and evaluated. Molecular biotechnology is a potent tool to elucidate the mechanisms at molecular level, and to construct engineered organisms with higher biosorption capacity and selectivity for the objective metal ions. The potential application of biosorption and biosorbents was discussed. Although the biosorption application is facing the great challenge, there are two trends for the development of the biosorption process for metal removal. One trend is to use hybrid technology for pollutants removal, especially using living cells. Another trend is to develop the commercial biosorbents using immobilization technology, and to improve the biosorption process including regeneration/reuse, making the biosorbents just like a kind of ion exchange resin, as well as to exploit the market with great endeavor.