Institute of Crystallography - CNR

Crystal Structure of the Human Copper Chaperone ATOX1 Bound to Zinc Ion

The bioavailability of copper (Cu) in human cells may depend on a complex interplay with zinc (Zn) ions. We investigated the ability of the Zn ion to target the human Cu-chaperone Atox1, a small cytosolic protein capable of anchoring Cu(I), by a conserved surface-exposed Cys-X-X-Cys (CXXC) motif, and deliver it to Cu-transporting ATPases in the trans-Golgi network. The crystal structure of Atox1 loaded with Zn displays the metal ion bridging the CXXC motifs of two Atox1 molecules in a homodimer. The identity and location of the Zn ion were confirmed through the anomalous scattering of the metal by collecting X-ray diffraction data near the Zn K-edge. Furthermore, soaking experiments of the Zn-loaded Atox1 crystals with a strong chelating agent, such as EDTA, caused only limited removal of the metal ion from the tetrahedral coordination cage, suggesting a potential role of Atox1 in Zn metabolism and, more generally, that Cu and Zn transport mechanisms could be interlocked in human cells.

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Vincenzo Mangini, Benny Danilo Belviso, Maria Incoronata Nardella, Giovanni Natile, Fabio Arnesano, Rocco Caliandro