Maintaining copper homeostasis: regulation of copper-trafficking proteins in response to copper deficiency or overload

J Nutr Biochem. 2004 Jun;15(6):316-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2004.02.004.


Copper is an essential micronutrient that plays a vital role as a catalytic co-factor for a variety of metalloenzymes. The redox chemistry of copper also makes it a potentially toxic metal if not properly used. Therefore, elaborate mechanisms have evolved for controlling its cellular uptake, elimination, and distribution. In the last decade, our understanding of the systems involved in maintaining copper homeostasis has improved considerably with the characterization of copper transporters that mediate cellular copper uptake or efflux and with the identification of copper chaperones, a family of proteins required for delivering copper to specific targets in the cell. Despite the distinct roles of these proteins in copper trafficking, all seem able to respond to changes in copper status. Here, we describe recent advances in our knowledge of how copper-trafficking proteins respond to copper deficiency or overload in mammalian cells in order to maintain copper balance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Copper / administration & dosage
  • Copper / deficiency
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Homeostasis*
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism
  • Prions / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Prions
  • Copper
  • Metallothionein
  • Glutathione