Copper signalling: causes and consequences

Cell Commun Signal. 2018 Oct 22;16(1):71. doi: 10.1186/s12964-018-0277-3.


Copper-containing enzymes perform fundamental functions by activating dioxygen (O2) and therefore allowing chemical energy-transfer for aerobic metabolism. The copper-dependence of O2 transport, metabolism and production of signalling molecules are supported by molecular systems that regulate and preserve tightly-bound static and weakly-bound dynamic cellular copper pools. Disruption of the reducing intracellular environment, characterized by glutathione shortage and ambient Cu(II) abundance drives oxidative stress and interferes with the bidirectional, copper-dependent communication between neurons and astrocytes, eventually leading to various brain disease forms. A deeper understanding of of the regulatory effects of copper on neuro-glia coupling via polyamine metabolism may reveal novel copper signalling functions and new directions for therapeutic intervention in brain disorders associated with aberrant copper metabolism.

Keywords: Copper chelate therapy; Copper-rich aggregates; Dynamic copper pool; GSH/GSSG ratio; Neuro-glia coupling; Redox disproportionation and speciation of copper.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Copper