Extended functional repertoire for human copper chaperones

Biomol Concepts. 2016 Feb;7(1):29-39. doi: 10.1515/bmc-2015-0030.


Copper (Cu) ions are cofactors in many essential enzymes. As free Cu ions are toxic, most organisms have highly specialized Cu transport systems involving dedicated proteins. The human cytoplasmic Cu chaperone Atox1 delivers Cu to P1B-type ATPases in the Golgi network, for incorporation into Cu-dependent enzymes following the secretory path. Atox1 homologs are found in most organisms; it is a 68-residue ferredoxin-fold protein that binds Cu in a conserved surface-exposed CXXC motif. In addition to Atox1, the human cytoplasm also contains Cu chaperones for loading of superoxide dismutase 1 (i.e. CCS) and cytochrome c oxidase in mitochondria (i.e. Cox17). Many mechanistic aspects have been resolved with respect to how Cu ions are moved between these proteins. In addition to the primary cytoplasmic Cu chaperone function, all three cytoplasmic chaperones have been reported to have other interaction partners that are involved in signaling pathways that modulate cell growth and development. These new discoveries imply that humans have evolved a highly sophisticated network of control mechanisms that connect Cu transport with cell regulatory processes. This knowledge may eventually be exploited for future drug developments towards diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Metallochaperones / chemistry
  • Metallochaperones / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Chaperones / chemistry
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1


  • ATOX1 protein, human
  • CCS protein, human
  • COX17 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Metallochaperones
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • SOD1 protein, human
  • Copper
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1