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Chem Biol Interact. 1976 Aug;14(3-4):347-56.

Copper toxicity: evidence for the conversion of cupric to cuprous copper in vivo under anaerobic conditions.


We have determined the toxicity to cells of Escherichia coli B of cupric copper applied under aerobic and anaerobic conditions in two ways. The growth of cells in liquid medium incorporating cupric copper shows differential inhibition, comparing aerobic and anaerobic conditions--toxicity being greater under anoxia. The growth of colonies upon agar plates incorporating cupric copper does not show such a differential effect. We conclude that colonies on plates are largely anoxic even when incubated aerobically. EPR spectra of cells obtained at various times after application of cupric copper under anoxic conditions indicate the conversion of a considerable proportion of the Cu(II) to a non-paramagnetic species, probably Cu(I). We demonstrate that Cu(I) is more toxic than Cu(II) to cells when applied under anoxic conditions and conclude that the difference in toxicity of Cu(II) applied to cells under aerobic and anaerobic conditions results from the greater extent of reduction of Cu(II) to Cu(I) under anaerobic conditions.

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