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Hum Mol Genet. 2014 Jul 1;23(13):3596-606. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddu069. Epub 2014 Feb 18.

Copper supplementation restores cytochrome c oxidase assembly defect in a mitochondrial disease model of COA6 deficiency.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA and.
Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA and


Mitochondrial respiratory chain biogenesis is orchestrated by hundreds of assembly factors, many of which are yet to be discovered. Using an integrative approach based on clues from evolutionary history, protein localization and human genetics, we have identified a conserved mitochondrial protein, C1orf31/COA6, and shown its requirement for respiratory complex IV biogenesis in yeast, zebrafish and human cells. A recent next-generation sequencing study reported potential pathogenic mutations within the evolutionarily conserved Cx₉CxnCx₁₀C motif of COA6, implicating it in mitochondrial disease biology. Using yeast coa6Δ cells, we show that conserved residues in the motif, including the residue mutated in a patient with mitochondrial disease, are essential for COA6 function, thus confirming the pathogenicity of the patient mutation. Furthermore, we show that zebrafish embryos with zfcoa6 knockdown display reduced heart rate and cardiac developmental defects, recapitulating the observed pathology in the human mitochondrial disease patient who died of neonatal hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The specific requirement of Coa6 for respiratory complex IV biogenesis, its intramitochondrial localization and the presence of the Cx₉CxnCx₁₀C motif suggested a role in mitochondrial copper metabolism. In support of this, we show that exogenous copper supplementation completely rescues respiratory and complex IV assembly defects in yeast coa6Δ cells. Taken together, our results establish an evolutionarily conserved role of Coa6 in complex IV assembly and support a causal role of the COA6 mutation in the human mitochondrial disease patient.

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