A role for ascorbic acid in copper transport

Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Dec;54(6 Suppl):1193S-1197S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/54.6.1193s.


Scurvy-like symptoms have been seen in experimental copper deficiency. This forecasts a role for the vitamin in copper metabolism. Ascorbate has been known to antagonize the intestinal absorption of copper. More recent studies have characterized a postabsorption role for ascorbate in the transfer of copper ions into cells. The vitamin reacts directly or indirectly with ceruloplasmin, a serum copper protein, specifically labilizing the bound copper atoms and facilitating their cross-membrane transport. Ascorbate at physiological levels and above impedes the intracellular binding of copper to Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase. The mechanism is unclear but nonetheless suggests both positive and negative regulatory functions for ascorbate in copper metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / physiology*
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Biological Transport
  • Ceruloplasmin / metabolism
  • Copper / deficiency
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Copper / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism


  • Copper
  • Ceruloplasmin
  • Ascorbic Acid