In vivo oxidative modification of erythrocyte membrane proteins in copper deficiency

Free Radic Biol Med. 1997;22(5):835-42. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(96)00430-3.


Oxidative stress has been postulated to contribute to the pathology associated with dietary copper deficiency. In vivo, erythrocytes are probable targets of oxidative damage because they are exposed to high concentrations of oxygen and contain heme iron that can autoxidize, which results in the formation of superoxide anions. Activity of the important antioxidant enzyme, copper, zinc superoxide dismutase, decreases markedly in erythrocytes during copper deficiency. The effect of dietary copper deficiency on indicators of oxidative stress was examined in erythrocyte membranes of rats maintained on a purified copper-deficient diet for 35 days after weaning. Erythrocytes were separated into young and old populations on a Percoll gradient prior to membrane isolation and quantification of lipid peroxides and protein carbonyls. Protein carbonyls, determined by Western blot immunoassay, were detected predominantly in both the alpha and beta chains of spectrin. Alpha and beta subunits of spectrin in erythrocyte membranes from copper-deficient rats contained higher amounts of carbonyls than controls, regardless of the population of erythrocytes studied. This study suggests that spectrin may be a specific target for oxidative damage when erythrocyte copper, zinc superoxide dismutase activity is reduced by copper deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Erythrocyte Aging
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism*
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase / blood
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / blood
  • Lipid Peroxides / blood
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / blood*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spectrin / chemistry
  • Spectrin / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase / blood


  • Lipid Peroxides
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Spectrin
  • Copper
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase