Copper chaperone ATOX1 regulates pluripotency factor OCT4 in preimplantation mouse embryos

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2017 Sep 9;491(1):147-153. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2017.07.064. Epub 2017 Jul 12.


Despite of the importance of copper (Cu) during pregnancy, the roles of Cu-binding proteins during early embryonic development are unknown. The Cu chaperone ATOX1 was recently suggested to have additional functions related to transcription and cancer. When we analyzed single-cell RNA transcript data from early mouse embryos, Atox1 transcript levels increased dramatically at the 8-cell stage and, at 16- and 32-cell embryo stages, matched those of Oct4 which expresses a transcription factor essential for pluripotency in the inner cell mass. To explore this, we probed Atox1 expression during the first week of development of mouse embryos. ATOX1 appeared ubiquitously expressed throughout the cells until compaction; in subsequent embryo stages, ATOX1 relocalized to cytoplasmic perinuclear domains in the inner cell mass. Silencing of Oct4 did not affect Atox1 expression, but silencing of Atox1 at the 2-cell stage strongly diminished Oct4 expression in 16-cell embryos.

Keywords: Atox1; Development; Oct4; Preimplantation mouse embryo; Transcription factor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastocyst / physiology*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Copper Transport Proteins
  • Embryonic Development / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism*
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / metabolism*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Atox1 protein, mouse
  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Copper Transport Proteins
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • Pou5f1 protein, mouse
  • Copper