Copper is an essential micronutrient that functions as a redox cofactor in multiple plant processes, including photosynthesis. Arabidopsis thaliana possesses a conserved family of CTR-like high-affinity copper transport proteins denoted as COPT1-5. COPT1, the only family member that is functionally characterized, participates in plant copper acquisition. However, little is known about the function of the other Arabidopsis COPT proteins in the transport and distribution of copper. Here, we show that a functional fusion of COPT5 to the green fluorescent protein localizes in Arabidopsis cells to the prevacuolar compartment. Plants defective in COPT5 do not exhibit any significant phenotype under copper-sufficient conditions, but their growth is compromised under copper limitation. Under extreme copper deficiency, two independent copt5 knockout mutant lines exhibit severe defects in vegetative growth and root elongation, low chlorophyll content, and impairment in the photosynthetic electron transfer. All these phenotypes are rescued when the wild-type copy of the COPT5 gene is retransformed into a copt5 knockout line or when copper, but not other metals, are added to the medium. COPT5 is expressed in vascular tissues, with elevated levels in roots. Taken together, these results suggest that COPT5 plays an important role in the plant response to environmental copper scarcity, probably by remobilizing copper from prevacuolar vesicles, which could act as internal stores or recycling vesicles to provide the metal cofactor to key copper-dependent processes such as photosynthesis.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.