Sco proteins are present in all types of organisms, including the vast majority of eukaryotes and many prokaryotes. It is well established that Sco proteins in eukaryotes are involved in the assembly of the Cu(A) cofactor of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase; however their precise role in this process has not yet been elucidated at the molecular level. In particular, some but not all eukaryotes including humans possess two Sco proteins whose individual functions remain unclear. There is evidence that eukaryotic Sco proteins are also implicated in other cellular processes such as redox signalling and regulation of copper homeostasis. The range of physiological functions of Sco proteins appears to be even wider in prokaryotes, where Sco-encoding genes have been duplicated many times during evolution. While some prokaryotic Sco proteins are required for the biosynthesis of cytochrome c oxidase, others are most likely to take part in different processes such as copper delivery to other enzymes and protection against oxidative stress. The detailed understanding of the multiplicity of roles ascribed to Sco proteins requires the identification of the subtle determinants that modulate the two properties central to their known and potential functions, i.e. copper binding and redox properties. In this review, we provide a comprehensive summary of the current knowledge on Sco proteins gained by genetic, structural and functional studies on both eukaryotic and prokaryotic homologues, and propose some hints to unveil the elusive molecular mechanisms underlying their functions.
© 2011 The Authors Journal compilation © 2011 FEBS.