Wilson disease and related copper disorders

Handb Clin Neurol. 2018:147:279-292. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63233-3.00018-X.


Copper is a required cofactor for enzymes in critical metabolic pathways. Mutations in copper metabolism genes or abnormalities in copper metabolism result in disease from copper excess or deficiency. Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal-recessive disease caused by mutations in the ATP7B gene which encodes a copper-transporting ATPase. Over 500 different WD mutations throughout the ATP7B gene have been described, most of which are missense mutations. Mutations in both ATP7B alleles result in abnormal copper metabolism and subsequent toxic accumulation of copper. The clinical manifestations of neurologic WD include variable combinations of dysarthria, dystonia, tremor, and choreoathetosis. Misdiagnosis and delay in treatment are clinically relevant because untreated WD progresses to hepatic failure or severe neurologic disability and death. Treatment can prevent and cure WD. Mutations in a second, closely related copper-transporting ATPase, ATP7A, cause a spectrum of copper deficiency disorders that include Menkes disease, occipital horn syndrome, and ATP7A-related distal motor neuropathy. Two important, nongenetic causes of copper deficiency myeloneuropathy are copper deficiency following gastric bypass or due to excess zinc ingestion, both of which can cause a myeloneuropathy similar to vitamin B12 deficiency. Copper deficiency following gastric bypass is preventable, and identification and elimination of the excess zinc source, most commonly dental cream, can result in recovery.

Keywords: ATP7A; ATP7A-related distal motor neuropathy; ATP7B; Menkes disease; Wilson disease; copper; copper deficiency myeloneuropathy; occipital horn syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Copper / administration & dosage
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases / genetics*
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases / metabolism
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / diagnosis*
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / drug therapy
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / genetics*
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Stomach / drug effects
  • Stomach / physiology


  • Copper
  • ATP7B protein, human
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases