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J Biol Chem. 2012 Apr 20;287(17):13549-55. doi: 10.1074/jbc.R111.316406. Epub 2012 Mar 2.

Copper homeostasis at the host-pathogen interface.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.


The trace element copper is indispensable for all aerobic life forms. Its ability to cycle between two oxidation states, Cu(1+) and Cu(2+), has been harnessed by a wide array of metalloenzymes that catalyze electron transfer reactions. The metabolic needs for copper are sustained by a complex series of transporters and carrier proteins that regulate its intracellular accumulation and distribution in both pathogenic microbes and their animal hosts. However, copper is also potentially toxic due in part to its ability to generate reactive oxygen species. Recent studies suggest that the macrophage phagosome accumulates copper during bacterial infection, which may constitute an important mechanism of killing. Bacterial countermeasures include the up-regulation of copper export and detoxification genes during infection, which studies suggest are important determinants of virulence. In this minireview, we summarize recent developments that suggest an emerging role for copper as an unexpected component in determining the outcome of host-pathogen interactions.

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