A genome-wide copper-sensitized screen identifies novel regulators of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase activity

J Biol Chem. 2021 Jan-Jun;296:100485. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2021.100485. Epub 2021 Mar 1.


Copper is essential for the activity and stability of cytochrome c oxidase (CcO), the terminal enzyme of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Loss-of-function mutations in genes required for copper transport to CcO result in fatal human disorders. Despite the fundamental importance of copper in mitochondrial and organismal physiology, systematic identification of genes that regulate mitochondrial copper homeostasis is lacking. To discover these genes, we performed a genome-wide screen using a library of DNA-barcoded yeast deletion mutants grown in copper-supplemented media. Our screen recovered a number of genes known to be involved in cellular copper homeostasis as well as genes previously not linked to mitochondrial copper biology. These newly identified genes include the subunits of the adaptor protein 3 complex (AP-3) and components of the cellular pH-sensing pathway Rim20 and Rim21, both of which are known to affect vacuolar function. We find that AP-3 and Rim mutants exhibit decreased vacuolar acidity, which in turn perturbs mitochondrial copper homeostasis and CcO function. CcO activity of these mutants could be rescued by either restoring vacuolar pH or supplementing growth media with additional copper. Consistent with these genetic data, pharmacological inhibition of the vacuolar proton pump leads to decreased mitochondrial copper content and a concomitant decrease in CcO abundance and activity. Taken together, our study uncovered novel genetic regulators of mitochondrial copper homeostasis and provided a mechanism by which vacuolar pH impacts mitochondrial respiration through copper homeostasis.

Keywords: AP-3; copper; cytochrome c oxidase; mitochondria; pH; rim20; rim21; vacuole.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Culture Media
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism*
  • Genome, Fungal
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • Homeostasis
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sequence Deletion


  • Culture Media
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Copper
  • Electron Transport Complex IV