Chronological changes in tissue copper, zinc and iron in the toxic milk mouse and effects of copper loading

Biometals. 2006 Oct;19(5):555-64. doi: 10.1007/s10534-005-5918-5.


The toxic milk (tx) mouse is a rodent model for Wilson disease, an inherited disorder of copper overload. Here we assessed the effect of copper accumulation in the tx mouse on zinc and iron metabolism. Copper, zinc and iron concentrations were determined in the liver, kidney, spleen and brain of control and copper-loaded animals by atomic absorption spectroscopy. Copper concentration increased dramatically in the liver, and was also significantly higher in the spleen, kidney and brain of control tx mice in the first few months of life compared with normal DL mice. Hepatic zinc was increased with age in the tx mouse, but zinc concentrations in the other organs were normal. Liver and kidney iron concentrations were significantly lower at birth in tx mice, but increased quickly to be comparable with control mice by 2 months of age. Iron concentration in the spleen was significantly higher in tx mice, but was lower in 5 day old tx pups. Copper-loading studies showed that normal DL mice ingesting 300 mg/l copper in their diet for 3 months maintained normal liver, kidney and brain copper, zinc and iron levels. Copper-loading of tx mice did not increase the already high liver copper concentrations, but spleen and brain copper concentrations were increased. Despite a significant elevation of copper in the brain of the copper-loaded tx mice no behavioural changes were observed. The livers of copper-loaded tx mice had a lower zinc concentration than control tx mice, whilst the kidney had double the concentration of iron suggesting that there was increased erythrocyte hemolysis in the copper-loaded mutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ceruloplasmin / metabolism
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred Strains*
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Ceruloplasmin
  • Zinc