Copper deficiency and heart disease: molecular basis, recent advances and current concepts

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 1997 Nov;29(11):1245-54. doi: 10.1016/s1357-2725(97)00060-5.


Copper is an essential trace element and has profound influence on cardiac myopathy and heart metabolism. Dietary Cu restriction in rats results in cardiomyopathy, and affects the integrity of the basal lamina of cardiac myocytes and capillaries. Decreased levels of delta subunits of ATP synthetase and nuclear encoded subunits of cytochrome oxidase system have been observed. Alteration in expression of glutathione peroxidase and catalase in heart and liver in Cu deficiency (Cu-) has been noted involving both transcriptional and post transcriptional mechanisms. A short description of two genetically inherited disorders of Cu metabolism, i.e. Wilson's disease and Menkes' disease, and Indian childhood cirrhosis (environmental and/or genetic) have been included to illustrate that advances in the knowledge of Cu cellular transport gives a better understanding of the molecular basis of the pathophysiology of these diseases. Menkes' disease, a human model of defective Cu transport and Cu- has shown many pathological changes, similar to those of heart disease in Cu-. The recent cloning of four genes of putative Cu pumping ATPases (Cu-ATPases) from widely different sources, i.e. two from Enterococcus hirae and one each from Wilson's and Menkes disease patients (which are defective in Cu transport and metabolism), has opened a new chapter in the study of Cu cellular transport and metabolism. The encoded gene products, i.e. Cu-ATPases, show extensive homology and are members of a new class of ATP-driven Cu pumps involved in regulation of cellular Cu. Further, Cu transport by Cop B-ATPase (E. hirae) in membrane vesicles and in isolated rat liver plasma membrane has provided biochemical evidence of its role in ATP-driven Cu transport. In this short review I have critically examined the current evidence of the molecular basis of the pathophysiology of cardiomyopathy in Cu- and, have indicated the possible role of P-type Cu ATPase which may be one of the obligatory factors contributing to cardiomyopathy in experimental animals and probably humans. Experimental verification of this hypothesis will be the aim of future studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / physiology
  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Biological Transport
  • Cardiomyopathies / metabolism
  • Cardiomyopathies / physiopathology*
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Copper / pharmacokinetics
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / genetics
  • Humans
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics


  • Copper
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases