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Biochem J. 2008 Aug 1;413(3):459-65. doi: 10.1042/BJ20080467.

High Cu(I) and low proton affinities of the CXXC motif of Bacillus subtilis CopZ.

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Centre for Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, School of Chemical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.


CopZ, an Atx1-like copper chaperone from the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, functions as part of a complex cellular machinery for Cu(I) trafficking and detoxification, in which it interacts specifically with the transmembrane Cu(I)-transporter CopA. Here we demonstrate that the cysteine residues of the MXCXXC Cu(I)-binding motif of CopZ have low proton affinities, with both exhibiting pK(a) values of 6 or below. Chelator competition experiments demonstrated that the protein binds Cu(I) with extremely high affinity, with a small but significant pH-dependence over the range pH 6.5-8.0. From these data, a pH-corrected formation constant, beta(2)= approximately 6 x 10(22) M(-2), was determined. Rapid exchange of Cu(I) between CopZ and the Cu(I)-chelator BCS (bathocuproine disulfonate) indicated that the mechanism of exchange does not involve simple dissociation of Cu(I) from CopZ (or BCS), but instead proceeds via the formation of a transient Cu(I)-mediated protein-chelator complex. Such a mechanism has similarities to the Cu(I)-exchange pathway that occurs between components of copper-trafficking pathways.

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