Inborn errors of copper metabolism

Handb Clin Neurol. 2013:113:1745-54. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-59565-2.00045-9.


Two copper-transporting ATPases are essential for mammalian copper homeostasis: ATP7A, which mediates copper uptake in the gastrointestinal tract and copper delivery to the brain, and ATP7B, which mediates copper excretion by the liver into bile. Mutations in ATP7A may cause three distinct X-linked conditions in infants, children, or adolescents: Menkes disease, occipital horn syndrome (OHS), and a newly identified allelic variant restricted to motor neurons called X-linked distal hereditary motor neuropathy. These three disorders show variable neurological findings and ages of onset. Menkes disease presents in the first several months of life with failure to thrive, developmental delay, and seizures. OHS features more subtle developmental delays, dysautonomia, and connective tissue abnormalities beginning in early childhood. ATP7A-related distal motor neuropathy presents even later, often not until adolescence or early adulthood, and involves a neurological phenotype that resembles Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, type 2. These disorders may be treatable through copper replacement or ATP7A gene therapy. In contrast, mutations in ATP7B cause a single known phenotype, Wilson disease, an autosomal recessive trait that results from copper overload rather than deficiency. Dysarthria, dystonia, tremor, gait abnormalities, and psychiatric problems may be presenting symptoms, at ages from 10 to 40 years. Excellent treatment options exist for Wilson disease, based on copper chelation. In the past 2 years (2012-2013), three new autosomal recessive copper metabolism conditions have been recognized: 1) Huppke-Brendel syndrome caused by mutations in an acetyl CoA transporter needed for acetylation of one or more copper proteins, 2) CCS deficiency caused by mutations in the copper chaperone to SODI, and 3) MEDNIK syndrome, which revealed that mutations in the σ1A subunit of adaptor protein complex 1 (AP-1) have detrimental effects on trafficking of ATP7A and ATP7B.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Cutis Laxa / diagnosis*
  • Cutis Laxa / genetics
  • Cutis Laxa / metabolism
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / genetics
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / metabolism
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / diagnosis*
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / drug therapy
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / genetics
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / genetics
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / metabolism
  • Penicillamine / therapeutic use
  • Prognosis


  • Chelating Agents
  • Copper
  • Penicillamine

Supplementary concepts

  • Occipital horn syndrome