Small amounts of functional ATP7A protein permit mild phenotype

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015:31:173-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.07.022. Epub 2014 Aug 8.


Mutations in ATP7A lead to at least three allelic disorders: Menkes disease (MD), Occipital horn syndrome and X-linked distal motor neuropathy. These disorders are mainly seen in male individuals, but a few affected females have been described. More than 400 different mutations have been identified in the ATP7A gene. We have conducted several studies in the hope of uncovering the relationship between genotype and phenotype. We have examined the X-inactivation pattern in affected females, the effect of exon-deletions and--duplications, and splice-site mutations on the composition and amount of ATP7A transcript, and we have examined the structural location of missense mutations. The X-inactivation pattern did not fully explain the manifestation of MD in a small fraction of carriers. Most of the affected females had preferential inactivation of the X-chromosome with the normal ATP7A gene, but a few individuals exhibited preferential inactivation of the X-chromosome with the mutated ATP7A gene. The observed mild phenotype in some patients with mutations that effect the composition of the ATP7A transcript, seems to be explained by the presence of a small amount of normal ATP7A transcript. The location of missense mutations on structural models of the ATP7A protein suggests that affected conserved residues generally lead to a severe phenotype. The ATP7A protein traffics within the cells. At low copper levels, ATP7A locates to the Trans-Golgi Network (TGN) to load cuproenzymes with copper, whereas at higher concentrations, ATP7A shifts to the post-Golgi compartments or to the plasma membrane to export copper out of the cell. Impaired copper-regulation trafficking has been observed for ATP7A mutants, but its impact on the clinical outcome is not clear. The major problem in patients with MD seems to be insufficient amounts of copper in the brain. In fact, prenatal treatment of mottled mice as a model for human MD with a combination of chelator and copper, produces a slight increase in copper levels in the brain which perhaps leads to longer survival and more active behavior. In conclusion, small amounts of copper at the right location seem to relieve the symptoms.

Keywords: Genotype–phenotype; Menkes disease; Mutation; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / genetics
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Copper / deficiency
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Copper / therapeutic use
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases
  • Cutis Laxa / genetics
  • Cutis Laxa / metabolism*
  • Cutis Laxa / physiopathology
  • Cutis Laxa / therapy
  • Deficiency Diseases / diet therapy
  • Deficiency Diseases / etiology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Down-Regulation
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / genetics
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / therapy
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / genetics
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / metabolism*
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / physiopathology
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / therapy
  • Hereditary Sensory and Motor Neuropathy / genetics
  • Hereditary Sensory and Motor Neuropathy / metabolism*
  • Hereditary Sensory and Motor Neuropathy / physiopathology
  • Hereditary Sensory and Motor Neuropathy / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / genetics
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / therapy
  • Mutation*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • X Chromosome Inactivation


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Chelating Agents
  • Copper
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • ATP7A protein, human
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases

Supplementary concepts

  • Occipital horn syndrome