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J Biol Chem. 2002 Aug 2;277(31):27953-9. Epub 2002 May 23.

Metallochaperone Atox1 transfers copper to the NH2-terminal domain of the Wilson's disease protein and regulates its catalytic activity.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon 97201, USA.


Copper is essential for the growth and development of mammalian cells. The key role in the intracellular distribution of copper belongs to the recently discovered family of metallochaperones and to copper-transporting P-type ATPases. The mutations in the ATPase ATP7B, the Wilson's disease protein (WNDP), lead to intracellular accumulation of copper and severe hepatic and neurological abnormalities. Several of these mutations were shown to disrupt the protein-protein interactions between WNDP and the metallochaperone Atox1, suggesting that these interactions are important for normal copper homeostasis. To understand the functional consequences of the Atox1-WNDP interaction at the molecular level, we produced recombinant Atox1 and characterized its effects on WNDP. We demonstrate that Atox1 transfers copper to the purified amino-terminal domain of WNDP (N-WNDP) in a dose-dependent and saturable manner. A maximum of six copper atoms can be transferred to N-WNDP by the chaperone. Furthermore, the incubation of copper Atox1 with the full-length WNDP leads to the stimulation of the WNDP catalytic activity, providing strong evidence for the direct effect of Atox1 on the function of this transporter. Our data also suggest that Atox1 can regulate the copper occupancy of WNDP. The incubation with apo-Atox1 results in the removal of copper from the metalated N-WNDP and apparent down-regulation of WNDP activity. Interestingly, at least one copper atom remains tightly bound to N-WNDP even in the presence of excess apo-Atox1. We suggest that this incomplete reversibility reflects the functional non-equivalency of the metal-binding sites in WNDP and speculate about the intracellular consequences of the reversible Atox1-mediated copper transfer.

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