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J Nutr. 2004 May;134(5):1003-6.

Intracellular copper transport in mammals.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 55812, USA. jprohask@d.umn.edu


Copper is an essential cofactor for approximately a dozen cuproenzymes in which copper is bound to specific amino acid residues in an active site. However, free cuprous ions react readily with hydrogen peroxide to yield the deleterious hydroxyl radical. Therefore, copper homeostasis is regulated very tightly, and unbound copper is extremely low in concentration. Copper imported by the plasma membrane transport protein Ctr1 rapidly binds to intracellular copper chaperone proteins. Atox1 delivers copper to the secretory pathway and docks with either copper-transporting ATPase ATP7B in the liver or ATP7A in other cells. ATP7B directs copper to plasma ceruloplasmin or to biliary excretion in concert with a newly discovered chaperone, Murr1, the protein missing in canine copper toxicosis. ATP7A directs copper within the transgolgi network to the proteins dopamine beta-monooxgenase, peptidylglycine alpha-amidating monooxygenase, lysyl oxidase, and tyrosinase, depending on the cell type. CCS is the copper chaperone for Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase; it delivers copper in the cytoplasm and intermitochondrial space. Cox17 delivers copper to mitochondria to cytochrome c oxidase via the chaperones Cox11, Sco1, and Sco2. Other copper chaperones may exist and might include metallothionein and amyloid precursor protein (APP). Genetic and nutritional studies have illustrated the essential nature of these copper-binding proteins; alterations in their levels are associated with severe pathology.

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