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Anal Biochem. 2010 Feb 15;397(2):218-26. doi: 10.1016/j.ab.2009.10.037. Epub 2009 Oct 23.

A spectrophotometric method for the determination of zinc, copper, and cobalt ions in metalloproteins using Zincon.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ont., Canada P3E 2C6.


Zincon (2-carboxy-2'-hydroxy-5'-sulfoformazylbenzene) has long been known as an excellent colorimetric reagent for the detection of zinc and copper ions in aqueous solution. To extend the chelator's versatility to the quantification of metal ions in metalloproteins, the spectral properties of Zincon and its complexes with Zn(2+), Cu(2+), and Co(2+) were investigated in the presence of guanidine hydrochloride and urea, two common denaturants used to labilize metal ions in proteins. These studies revealed the detection of metals to be generally more sensitive with urea. In addition, pH profiles recorded for these metals indicated the optimal pH for complex formation and stability to be 9.0. As a consequence, an optimized method that allows the facile determination of Zn(2+), Cu(2+), and Co(2+) with detection limits in the high nanomolar range is presented. Furthermore, a simple two-step procedure for the quantification of both Zn(2+) and Cu(2+) within the same sample is described. Using the prototypical Cu(2+)/Zn(2+)-protein superoxide dismutase as an example, the effectiveness of this method of dual metal quantification in metalloproteins is demonstrated. Thus, the spectrophotometric determination of metal ions with Zincon can be exploited as a rapid and inexpensive means of assessing the metal contents of zinc-, copper-, cobalt-, and zinc/copper-containing proteins.

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